Route: Central America
|Americans are brought up with the American dream – this is God’s own country,
we do lead the free world, and you can do anything you want. Perhaps it’s
the last part that causes the problem: if your entire life has featured
people telling you that you can do anything you want to, then you’re likely
to start believing them.
What happens next is that people start putting this belief into practice. You don’t often hear “I think that Rene’s is a good restaurant”: instead, you get “Rene’s is the best French restaurant in town/the state/the world/the entire Cosmos”, and delivered so deadpan you start to wonder whether just possibly some intergalactic Zagatonaut has actually done the appropriate research.
The title of this article comes from one particularly splendid example of the syndrome in action. Shortly after arriving in New York, we went on a works picnic outing in the wilds of New Jersey. About 30 minutes into the return coach journey, the driver was well and truly lost. Immediately a passenger emerged from the rear of the bus, and explained that their brother-in-law lived nearby and that they knew the neighbourhood. Fifteen minutes and several detailed instructions later, we were – if possible – significantly more lost. The guide had somehow returned to the back of the bus, without apology for or indeed even acknowledgment of their failure. In fact, I think it’s likely that this person still thinks they know the area.
Most bizarre, they were succeeded by two more equally confident and equally ignorant would-be navigators. After all this, the driver eventually got directions from a toll-booth operator – much to the surprise of various passengers, who couldn’t understand the need for this assistance.