Summer Reruns: "Knights" In White Satin

I wrote this post a couple of years ago. School starts in ten days, and while I don't mind the nice weather, I'm kind of over the whole lack of structure summer thing, to the point that I can't even force myself to be productive. So like the television networks, here's a rerun for you until I can get my act together sufficiently to come up with some new material.

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading a blog entry, the subject of which was, “I always thought…” (people said things like, I thought talk about euthanasia was about youth in Asia, or I thought Kosher pickles had no pork in them, that sort of thing). In the comments, people added hundreds and hundreds of further things that they misunderstood, in some cases for years. A lot of people thought Roy Orbison was blind because he always wears those sunglasses.

One of them was this:

“I thought the Moody Blues song was “Knights In White Satin”. I couldn’t understand why the knights wore white satin & not armor.”
And I confess that all these years I too had thought that song was about actual guys jousting and wooing ladies faire, not the part of the day when it’s not light outside. I mean, read the words—they really could be about anything:

“Nights (or, if you’re me, Knights) in white satin, never reaching the end,
Letters I've written, never meaning to send.
Beauty I'd always missed with these eyes before.
Just what the truth is, I can't say anymore.

'Cos I love you, yes I love you, oh how I love you.”

Etc. (Sure, there are two more verses, but one is exactly the same as the one above, and the other is just some philosophical bullshit about figuring out who you want to be. Or something. I confess I don’t really know, but since I spent the better part of thirty years thinking that the song was actually about guys who had been recognized by some king or other for their outstanding behavior, I’m not sure I’m the best candidate to analyze the lyrics.)
I mean, seriously all you’ve got there is a generic love song. And the “Late Lament” (the spoken bit at the end) doesn’t really add a clarifying element. It’s just there.

But when I posted about this on Facebook, several people thought I was nuts. Mostly guys who were old enough to remember when the song was a hit. One friend pointed out that the album has a very specific theme that, had I listened to the whole thing, would have made such an error impossible. But I had this specific set of images that went through my head when I heard the song, and the news that they were completely wrong just took the wind out of my sails.
I decided to share this amazing news with someone who I was sure would get it. I went in to talk to my boss. She’s about the same age I am, grew up in the same general area of the country, and has a lot of the same cultural background that I do.

I said, “So, I was reading this blog entry about things you misunderstood. And there was this one that said, ‘I always thought the Moody Blues song was, ‘Knights in White Satin’ like actual guys in armor but apparently it’s ‘night’ as in not daytime…’” And as I’m saying this out loud to her, I can see the same look crossing her face that crossed mine when I read it the first time.
It was the look that said, “You mean…it’s not?”

For almost the same length of time, she too had always had an image of guys in white satin suits cruising around doing chivalrous things. So it was nice to know I wasn’t alone. And really, I was even less alone than I’d originally thought, even taking into account my manager’s company in this age-old misconception. It turns out that in the comments section of this entry, there were dozens and dozens and dozens of people who had always thought the same thing.
And the truth about this song that caused me so much angst? Yeah, I actually don’t like it very much. It’s a very irritating and persistent ear worm for me. Even as I write this, I am tortured by it running through my head. And it will be with me for days now, dammit. But on the plus side, I did know Roy Orbison wasn’t blind.

Five Ways I Revealed I Was an American Without Ever Opening My Mouth

I just spent ten days in the Scottish Highlands. Being an American, I obviously sound like one (although I did have one person mistake me for Australian, which was odd because Australian accents are far more similar to British accents than American), but beyond that there were apparently a myriad of other signs that exposed me as a tourist, without my ever opening my mouth.

In Scotland you can get wine in two sizes—175ml or 250ml. Since the Brits are known for their “Oh, I just couldn’t” stance when it comes to indulgences, I suspect that the “large” size is on the menu intentionally to establish which restaurant patrons are actually from the UK, and which are not. In fact, it may even be that the large is put there specifically to lure Americans into revealing themselves by ordering it.  But I’m sure I could have written “Chardonnay, please—large” on a sheet of paper and shown it to them (so as not to reveal myself through my accent) and the waitresses would have said to themselves, “Ah, American.”

Of course, even if I ordered a soda, as soon as they saw me pick up my knife and fork they’d spot me as a Yank. I use my left hand to cut my meat. Also, I don’t use my spoon for much of anything. The highway sign for dining options off of an exit in the US is a crossed fork and knife. The same indicator in the UK is a crossed fork and spoon. I saw more people doing creative things with their spoons while eating—using them as a sort of trowel to load food onto their forks— than I ever have in the States, where the spoon is mostly ignored unless one is eating soup or stirring coffee.

Americans aren’t much for the higher denominations of coin, either. We’re comfortable with everything up to the quarter, but anything beyond that we pretty much ignore. Therefore, Americans are always quick to pull out some ridiculously high value of paper money to pay for small purchases. The British for the most part make it easy—the larger the coin, the higher the value—but there are a few exceptions, like the 2p coin, which is almost as big as a 50p coin, but is round and copper, and the 20p coin, which is almost the same size as the 5p coin, but mostly big equals high. It’s just that as Americans, we’re used to having four coins from which to choose. The Brits have six, plus the one- and two-pound coin, for a total of eight. While usually circumspect and disinclined to engage in excess, the Brits have a shit ton of coins to choose from.

Of course probably the most famous US-UK differentiator is the “side of the road” driving distinction, in which each nation accuses the other of driving on the “wrong” side. Right or wrong, if you’re in the “other” country, it’s backwards for you. I got pretty good at remembering which side of the car was the passenger, and walking to it, instead of trying to get in the driver’s side, but every now and then I’d flub it, and my husband would say, “Wrong side.” There was no questioning my nationality at that point.

The final thing that apparently marked me as an American was one that would never have occurred to me. I was in a grocery store with my brother in law’s girlfriend (they were our traveling companions on this trip). The shop  had a single queue leading up to the multiple registers. We were looking at something near the end of the queue, but weren’t actually waiting in line just then. A red headed kid, about eight or nine, straight out of the Central Casting call for “Young Laddie from the Scottish Highlands” asked if we were in the line.

“No, we’re not,” we replied.

The kid gave us a skeptical look.

“Are you Americans?” he asked.

“Yes,” we told him, “How did you know?”

“You’ve got accents,” he said, “and you’re wearing sunglasses.”

The accents were a given, but the sun glasses? From that point on, I looked carefully at the people around me, and with the exception of a German woman I saw a day or so later, no one was wearing sunglasses, certainly not the locals. I happen to wear mine all the time. Even when the sun isn’t out, my eyes are very sensitive to light, so I wear them when it’s cloudy as well. But clearly they marked us as Americans.

I don’t really mind being singled out as an American. Other than the occasional individual who wanted to hold me personally responsible for every stupid thing that asshole Donald Trump has said in the last two months, and one grouchy train steward who seemed convinced that every Yank was just one “Howdy, partner” away from being The Ugly American, most people didn’t seem to care that we were Americans. After all, we were spending money and supporting their economy. Mostly they were quite nice to us, and willing to repeat themselves when we weren’t quite sure what they were saying. Which, I’m sad to say, was often, and probably marked us as Americans more than anything else.