Sunday, February 21, 2010

Strokes, Blokes, and Flutes

Quote of the blog:

Amy in England to Italian tourists: “You’re from Italy!?” Presses her fingers and thumbs together, shakes her hand, and says, “Spiceee-Meatahballahs!”

A few summers ago two of my sisters, Tiffany and Sabra, and my friend Amy came to visit me for a week while I was working in London. It was Amy’s first time out of the country. We all had a great time and, as we are wont to do, laughed a lot. Eating a pain au chocolat from Pret A Manger became a daily to-do. Each morning someone would say, “We have to get a chocolate croissant at,” depending who was remembering the name, “Pretamangiers, Peetemangey,” or my personal favorite, “Pet a Manager.”

One evening we ate at Wagammama’s in Leicester Square. Amy asked our British waiter what he recommended.

He shrugged and said, “You know, different strokes for different blokes.”

Amy nodded in agreement. As soon as he walked away she leaned in and whispered, “What does that mean?”

We explained he just meant different people like different things. “Ahh,” she said, “I really like that.”

The last day of their visit we went for our final chocolate croissant fix. We were at the store near Trafalgar Square and the cashier recognized us. He was an ornery sort of fellow and gave us a bad time about ordering the same boring thing every day.

“We got all these things and all you want it a chocolate croissant. Bah.”

He couldn’t sway us and we each ordered a chocolate croissant. Tiffany and I were standing by the doors when Tiffany saw Amy say something to the cashier and then saw him smile broadly as he handed her the croissant. He was still smiling when Sabra ordered.

As we all walked out Tiffany asked, “What did you say to that guy?”

Amy smiled and said, “Oh, you know, just what the waiter said to us last night: A stroke for every bloke!”

We about died! Amy looked confused and we each exclaimed “Amy, that is not what the waiter said!” and “No wonder he smiled like that!” and “Did he give you the croissant for free?”

Amy stopped mid-step, looked horrified, and her face brightened with realization. We all howled with laughter.

A similar incident happened just this past summer. I met up with my friend Aja (pronounced Asia) and Jason. We traveled to Northern England and stayed in a 17th century B&B in the Peak District. On our last day there we sat down for breakfast at a table across from two Scottish men. They were about 50 years old, well-built and broad-shouldered. One was quiet and the other was loud and friendly.

The loud one looked at us and said in a quintessential Scottish brogue, “Ach! Yooou’ve gat ta cum ta Scoatland ta see tha Taattoooos.” He explained that the Edinburgh Tattoo is an exhibition of military members and military bands, etc.

The quiet one said, “That’s what I used to do for years.”

Aja asked, “You were in the military or in the band?” He answered, “Both.”

The loud one gave an “Ach!” and started teasing his friend about how he plays his flute…alone in his room…in only his socks. The quiet one rolled his eyes and gave his friend this half-amused/half-annoyed look like, “Shut up.” And the loud one kept teasing and pushing the joke, enjoying himself, and watching us for reactions – we just sipped our tea and ate our boiled breakfast.

Then the loud one said something to his friend about different types of men and the quiet one said wryly, “Yeah, those people that play their flutes.”

Aja piped in, “Well, some people play their flutes very well.”

The two men just about choked on their coffee. They looked surprised -probably not as surprised as Jason and me – and then started roaring with laughter.

Aja was about to take a drink but started laughing as well and the loud one said, “Ach! Look, she almost dropped her tea!”

They left a few minutes later and I said, “I have to admit I’m kind of surprised you said that.”

Aja looked puzzled and said, “I was just trying to be encouraging.”

I paused, “Wait. What did you think he was talking about?”

Aja looked at Jason and then at me and ventured, “Playing the flute?”

When we started laughing Aja said, “Wait! What? What did I miss?”

As I was trying to figure out how to explain, Jason offered, “Let’s just say that in this situation only men have flutes.”

Aja exclaimed, “Oh!” and turned red.

For the rest of the trip (and beyond) we would burst out laughing any time we thought of it. One of us would say, “I was just trying to be encouraging.” Or say seriously, “Well, some people play their flutes very well.”

I’m not sure that symphonies will ever be the same for me. And who knows what that flute-playing panhandler thought when I started laughing in the subway. If he had asked about it I might have waved my chocolate croissant in salute and said, “You know what they say, different strokes for different blokes.”


  1. Hahaha! You make me laugh! I need to save your blog to read for Mondy mornings so that I start off the week on a happy note. :)

  2. Ha! Me and Chrissy still laugh when we remember "A stroke for every bloke."

    Are you going to post about your BACA experience? I still remember you singing "We can all be angels man!" to us.

  3. Seriously... another Italian thing!?! I mean, really..... at first I figured you were just playing but now... well, now you're just straight racist.

    I tease.

    I imagine that quote of the day went something like this:

  4. This once again proves my theory: all Scots are dirty old men. The bagpipes are nothing more than a flute attached to a giant, um, chocolate croissant.

    I'm pleased that Aja puts so much effort into encouraging us blokes.

  5. Hilarious! I died laughing. Wow. The flute one caught me off guard.