When I first visited the United States in 1999, I was amazed by pretty much everything. My first encounter with the country was looking out at the Manhattan skyline from Newark Airport and feeling like I was inside a movie.
Then, as I met and talked with various Americans, I discovered something else.
I had an accent.
Now, obviously, I knew that. But I had no idea that people would stand, charmed and enthralled, as I spoke. To be honest, it sort of made me feel good. It still does, in 2012. I like that my accent makes people smile and, apparently, makes women melt. That is no bad thing.
“Where are you from? What’s that accent. Oh, it’s lovely!”
That’s the typical reaction, especially from waitresses. Sara once drying responded with “It wears off,” which still amuses me.
I’ve had people say to me, at work, that they were distracted by my lyrical accent and didn’t always hear what I was actually saying. That led me to worry, half-heartedly, that someday someone might actually listen to what I was saying, and I’d be revealed as the fake that I worry I am.
After nearly 13 years of being wonderfully, gently accosted because of my accent, I’ve noticed that I fall into a rehearsed routine of question/response. I manage to stay charming and patient, since it would be hard to be upset by someone saying they like something about you. No one has ever said, “God, that’s a crappy accent. Shut up or I’ll kill you.” (Actually, a few people have said that last part.)
I present for you a typical exchange. It varies from time to time, but it’s basically like this.
Person (smiling broadly): “Oh, I just love your accent! Where are you from?”
Me: “I’m from Northern Ireland.”
Person (now kittenish and charmed): “Oh really? Ireland? I wasn’t sure if it was an Irish or Scottish accent.”
Me: “Ah, the Scottish and Northern Irish accents are very similar.”
Person (misty-eyed and distant): “Oh, I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland.”
Me: “You should totally go, it’s lovely. Go in May or October, those are great months.”
Person: “I love your accent! What would you like to drink?”
I imagine that celebrities have a similar rehearsed routine, except instead of “I love your accent” they get “I loved you in movie name.”
For a few minutes, a couple of times a week, I get to feel like a celebrity, just because of my accent. It feels great, and it’s good for the soul, especially if the day isn’t going so well.