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Becoming British

    For as long as I can remember I always wanted to be British.

    Until recently it was especially true.  This idea became an obsession after all my British friends informed me how cool it is being British (especially being just plain “English”).  They also pointed out how outré it is being American.  It was never clear to me why they used a French word to describe Americans, but I accepted it at face value, since they are so close to France, and we are so far away.  No doubt there is a good reason for it.  Perhaps it’s their Raison d'être.

    But the main reason I wanted to be British was because all my favorite rock stars were British… The Beatles, Keith Richards, Rod Stewart, Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck, Herman’s Hermits, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis…

    Ok, so they weren’t ALL British, but I’m sure the ones who weren’t secretly wanted to be.

    So with the new millennium dangling on the horizon, I was determined to change my life for the better.  I decided to become a British “subject” — after decades of being a British “object.”  I now dedicated myself to a future of English gardens and fish n’ chips.

    The first thing I did was to go to the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. and announce that two of my ancestors, on my mother’s side of the aisle, landed at Plymouth Rock on the Mayflower on November 21, 1620.  “The Mayflower, mate!”

    No fooling!  Check it out.  My mother was born Katherine Ainsworth Fuller in 1918.  Edward Fuller, my great-great-great-great… (11 "greats") grandfather, sailed on that very ship.  And Elder William Brewster — who started a long line of little Brewsters in the colonies, who then, through nuptials, became Bliss’s and finally Fullers — was also on the Mayflower.

    I was directed to a small office at the Embassy for a chin wag with one, Rupert T. Schrivener, who informed me that it wasn’t good enough to have ancestors sail on the Mayflower to instantly qualify as a British subject… or even a British citizen.  Rupert was, in fact, a bit prissy about it, but he was from Kent, so I didn’t let it get me down.

    I then began the long and arduous route of naturalization… I’d like to be more precise and write it “naturali-s-ation,” but whenever I type it out the English way, my spell checker keeps changing the “s” into a “z” automatically.  I suppose I need a British computer, maybe a Misco.

    To make a long story short enough that you will get to the end, I’ll have to jump ahead.  After 7 years, I had completed all the basic requirements, paid my 836 Pounds, and had only to pass the final entrance examination to become a genuine British subject.  So at 10:00 AM, Monday, March 12, 2007, I returned to the Embassy, sat down and took the test.

    It really wasn't all that hard.  I finished it before anyone else in my group.  Sure… I forgot the name of the Queen, but, pretty much, I got everything else right.  I even knew about Shakespeer’s Sonnits.  I handed the paper in shortly before noon, brimming with confidence.

    To see the results from the exam, I was sent to another small room, only to be informed by one rather overweight, chalky-skinned bloke, Mycroft Woodruff, that I had failed.  I asked for an explanation, but all that he could tell me was that I wasn’t cheeky enough.  Mycroft’s exact words were, “You aren’t cheeky enough.”  And as I was walking out the door, he added, “Get stuffed!”

    Well... to be honest... I was dumbfounded.  I have met many Brits who are thinner than I, and they were allowed to remain Brits.  Look at Mick Jagger for Christsakes... his cheeks are concave.  I figured I was just another victim of British retribution for the Declaration of Independence and the Boston Tea Party.  But I wasn’t going to let that stand in the way of my life’s ambition.

    The next day I started eating lots of mutton and drinking pints of Guinness.  At the end of the first day I was definitely stuffed, and really bladdered.  But no matter.  I slogged on for 6 months and put on 25 pounds.  That’s almost 2 Stones!  When I figured I was cheeky enough, I went to take the test again.  This time I was a hefty 195 pounds — that’s… well… very nearly 14 Stones in the breadbasket!

    But my stars were not yet aligned with Greenwich.  I failed the second test as well.  I was gobsmacked.  Bloody hell!  No one ever expects the British Inquisition!

    The failure notice didn’t provide me with an explanation, so I went back to the Embassy and met with a young lad, named Arthur Landsworthy.  He pulled out his I-Pod’s left earbud and mumbled that I was, “too daft to become a British subject.”  I wasn’t entirely sure that I had heard him correctly, so I asked him to spell it out for me.  He wrote, “D-A-F-T” and then shouted it out very loud; to make sure I heard it right. Actually, that’s what I figured he had said, but he had such a peculiar accent that I wanted to double check.

    Ok.  I admit it.  Never before had I heard that particular word used in the past pluperfect tense, but I knew what it meant.  Straight away I drove my Nano rental car over the Potomac River on the George Mason Memorial Bridge, down Route 1 to Alexandria, Virginia where I found the Miracle Ear Hearing-Aid Center.  And I purchased my first hearing aid.  “That ought to do it,” I said to myself.

    Now… before I took the exam for the third time, I purchased the box set — all 12 episodes — of Fawlty Towers, and watched them over and over, just so I wouldn’t make any obvious mistakes this time around.  In a short time I learned how to be appropriately condescending, and I discovered how the English feel about Germans, Spaniards, and Barcelona.

    A fortnight later I was finally ready.  I drove back to the Embassy, with my hearing aid turned up to the maximum setting, and demanded to take the test one more time.

    The third time was the charm!!!  I passed the exam, got my papers, signed a note that said I promised not to be a hooligan, and was pronounced, “A British Citizen.”

    Immediately I booked a flight on Virgin Airlines bound for London, and flew “Home” for the very first time in my life.  I landed at Heathrow midday on June 12, 2010, ready to “destroy England.”  But when I got off the plane, I was thrown completely off my trolley.  It was so damned cold, that I shivered the whole day.  The temperature peaked at 58 degrees about 2:30 in the afternoon.  The next day was the same.  And then it rained.

    Hey!  No one warned me about this!  It wasn’t on the brochures.  No one ever mentioned the lousy weather.  Then, alone in my flat, in the middle of the second night, I awoke, still shivering and honking, but with a clarity I had never known before.  Everything suddenly fell into place.  All the little odd feelings I had had, but never voiced, suddenly took shape into The Big Picture… clear as Waterford Crystal.  No wonder those Brits spend so much energy trashing Americans.  They’re just trying to keep warm.

    To make a long story short enough to get to the end… I turned in my citizenship badge, burned my papers, and flew back to Arizona.  When I landed in Phoenix, it was 7:30 PM and 104 degrees.  That’s more like it!  Sure, it’s a little balmy, but hey, it’s a dry balmy!

    I drove my Chevy Volt* back to Sedona.

    “Honey, I’m home.  Toss out that dreadful Guinness.  Let’s go to Maria’s for chili rellenos and margaritas.”


*P.S. I know what your thinking! ... The Chevy Volt wasn't available in 2010.  Let me explain.  Bob Lutz, then Vice Chairman of General Motors, was a pal of mine.  I used to get him Havana cigars.  He managed to get me an early prototype of the Volt, so that I could drive around in aristocratic style.