The Ugliest American

I won’t take credit for this, it was relayed by a friend. But it just goes to show you that even in a hostile fire zone, some people can still be complete, total and utter imbeciles. I have modified the description below only where necessary to explain. This happened at the CPA Compound in Baghdad.
I relay to you, dear reader, this story one should file in the “some people just don’t get it” folder:
I was picking up my cleaning at the trailer out back this evening when the man (a civilian) next to me started in on the Iraqi worker behind the counter. Gripping a white dress shirt wrapped in plastic that he had just been handed, the (American) customer stated with the air of someone who has been handed an improperly-mixed martini:
“What is the matter with this? I can’t wear this shirt; it’s not pressed!”
People in the trailer all turned to look.
“Sir,” the employee responded patiently, “we don’t have a pressing machine; we have to do all these by hand.”
“Well, you’ll have to do this one again!” said the man in the neatly pressed chinos. “This is the second time this has happened to me! I leave this shirt here for four days, and it’s hardly pressed at all!”
“I’m sorry sir,” said the employee, still patiently. “I will have it ironed again.”
“When can I get it back?” asked the man who was picking up a total of 3 suits plus the shirt, “Can I get it tomorrow, or will it be another four days?”
“You can pick this up tomorrow, sir,” said the employee, filling out a cleaning slip and handing it back to his customer.
So, let’s get this straight…

(1) We’re in Baghdad, Iraq, rebuilding a nation after decades of crushing oppression by egotistical maniacs
(2) GIs are living in tents, taking leaks in field latrines, dying and on occasion watching their friends get maimed in the streets
(3) Iraqis get basic services like clean water and electricity intermittently
(4) Iraqi contract employees make HOW much an hour? [less than U.S. minimum wage is the correct answer]
(5) CPA civilian employees (who are getting paid HOW MUCH?) pay HOW MUCH for their cleaning? [CPA employees are paid much better than the average Iraqi and, by the way, the cleaning is free to the CPA employee, it’s in the overall logistics contract]
Yet, this guy (and I’m sure others) complain their SHIRTS AREN’T PROPERLY PRESSED?
If I were king for a day, I’d shut down the cleaners for a week and make everyone wash their shorts in the sink. In the short run, I vow the next time this happens to quietly remind the offender of points 1-5 above

These are the civilians here to help the Iraqis? No, these are the people here to burnish their resumes — and there are too many of them.
Thankfully, there are a lot more people here to help who are both staggeringly competent and actual human beings (as opposed to the aforementioned dolt). That’s why things do get done here despite organizational, budgetary, regulatory, political and (insert bureaucratic obstacle of choice here) issues.
But it boggles the mind that someone who comes here really does expect everything but the Starbucks on the corner.
Must be a political appointee.



  1. John Anderson

    Alas, it’s a type, and omnipresent. I’ve read worse of UN office workers in Kosovo.
    Mind if I rant? About an hour ago, I took a bus to get home. The driver announced the number and destination of the bus (three routes run the same road at the point I got on, but go different places) to each passenger, and named most upcoming stops. And there are large Asian and Hispanic recent-immigrant communities who ave difficulty with English.
    A young male sat behind me, and promptly started complaining about rude bus drivers. He took exception to the announcements “Do they think we can’t read? Or know where we’re going?”. He discoursed on how much they get paid “to sit on their butts all day.” And so on, and so forth.
    Alas, I did not turn and tell him to either shut up or walk. I should have, even if it resulted in both of us getting thrown off by the driver.

  2. Sharps Shooter

    Bloviating idiots are with us, always.
    I learned Korean at the US Army’s behest, and in the course of a few months in-country after a year of DLI (Monterey) study, honed my linguistic skills to a near-native sharpness…
    Which I used on several occasions, to quietly inform Koreans that the ugly, cigar-chomping, whore-abusing, vilifying loudmouth was NOT representative of America in general, and that most Americans were ashamed that some among us had such shameful manners, and…
    …and they invariably looked ME in the eyes, nodded, and said they understood. And we, too, have Koreans who are like HIM… and they’d grimace, ruefully…

  3. Major Sean Bannion

    Yeah, I know Sharps….I just for some reason didn’t expect to find it here.
    I have no idea why I thought that.
    John – I live in Boston when I’m not here and I know the type. The only response to them in that case is disdain. Let ’em have it.