I don't play by your admittedly sensible and important rules
This might surprise you, but I'm not perfect. I've gone on record describing myself variously as 'a bit of an asshole' and 'a dick,' but I don't think I'd go as far as to call myself 'a tosser.' I'll reserve that privilege for those more self-assured and insufferably cocky men I've encountered on my travels (they are always men) who make modest boasts about what they view as their impressive or unusual achievements that tend to look rather mediocre or even pointless to the objective eye.
These are usually the objective eyes of women who fail to be impressed when being insulted through their association with the lamentable tourists surrounding the tosser, who are probably only here on holiday, doing a bit of sightseeing on the well-trodden path, unquestioningly following their Lonely Planet guidebooks before going back to their humdrum lives. Like there's anything wrong with having something to go back to.
Here are some true examples of modest boasts, failed attempts to impress and general tossiness that I've enjoyed from an impartial vantage point elsewhere in the room, usually when I'm working, writing these blogs or finding other ways to avoid interaction. Most of these are from South Korea the first time around, which was the last time I shared rooms and hung around in communal areas in hostels, so is probably why those are freshest in my memory. I've embellished the events slightly for dramatic purposes, and although most of the featured tossers could conceivably be me, only one of them actually is. But which one?
The tosser who was too interesting to arrive by plane
Scene: A hostel dorm in Seoul, South Korea. A British TOSSER and Australian MAN are passing time on their laptops, reclining in adjacent beds.
TOSSER: I'm flying out from Incheon airport in the morning.
MAN: Ah, okay.
TOSSER: So what are South Korea's airports like?
MAN: (Slightly confused by this question) I don't know, really... pretty good, I guess.
TOSSER: Okay. It's just, ah, you see, I've never been to a South Korean airport.
MAN: Oh. You got the ferry over from Japan then?
TOSSER: (Pleased) Pretty unconventional, I know. Nearly all international visitors to South Korea arrive by plane, but I didn't do that. That's not for me.
MAN: You're still using it to fly out though.
TOSSER: Yeah, but I didn't fly in.
MAN: I'm just saying, if you were trying to cut out flights, to reduce your carbon footprint or for different experiences or whatever, you could've gone to your next destination by sea too. Have you seen there's boats to Shanghai and Vladivostok? That'd be a great experience, I was thinking about it.
TOSSER: (Deflated) No, I... well, I'm only on a short break.
MAN: How did you get to Japan?
MAN: Don't worry about it.
Really, you didn't make it to the obscure and pointless city of Kuala Lipis when you were in Malaysia? I understand, sometimes it can be difficult to avoid the lure of the tourist traps where you'll actually have a good time
The tosser who was too experienced to pay in cash
Scene: Boarding the express airport bus from Incheon Airport to Seoul. An American TOSSER is sighing and looking impatient as multiracial passengers fiddle in their wallets for the 10,000 Won fare. Finally, his turn approaches.
TOSSER: (Swiftly draws his T-money transport card from its holster and swipes it efficiently past the sensor).
TOSSER: (To IMPRESSED DRIVER) Yes, that's right, I've travelled on a South Korean bus before and am familiar with their operation. So familiar, in fact, I even have a T-money card to reduce my travel fares and improve convenience.
IMPRESSED DRIVER: Sit down, TOSSER, you're holding up the line.
The tosser who knew how to say hello
Scene: Common area of a Seoul hostel. Two WOMEN are patiently waiting for the owner to arrive so they can check in. A Dutch TOSSER enters, inappropriately topless for February.
TOSSER: Hi. Where are you guys from?
WOMAN 1: Thailand.
TOSSER: Thailand! Sawasdee krab.
WOMEN: (Laugh politely in unison).
WOMAN 2: Kun pood pa sa Thai dai mai?
I'm not going to be a standard English or amusing broken English sign - I'm going to be a slightly-too-well-crafted English sign, that'll confuse 'em
The tosser who ate like the locals do
Scene: A restaurant in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. An English TOSSER and his GIRLFRIEND are eating lamprais off banana leaves. She is eating using the fork and spoon provided; he is using his right hand.
GIRLFRIEND: Why don't you just use the fork?
TOSSER: (Scooping curry into his mouth with messy fingers) I told you before - I'm a traveller, not a tourist.
(Some of this stuff is made up, but he actually said that).
GIRLFRIEND: I don't know what I saw in you, TOSSER. I'm going to talk to that guy over there, the one bashing hard at his laptop keys and trying not to laugh. At least he knows how to use cutlery.
The tosser who missed his mark
Scene: Travelling by jeepney down a highway in semi-rural Thailand. The vehicle slows and turns into the roadside to let on a new passenger - an ATTRACTIVE WOMAN.
TOSSER: (Chivalrously gives up his seat, despite the availability of seats, and motions for the ATTRACTIVE WOMAN to sit down, as he takes a standing position in her line of sight on the back rails of the truck. Takes a final swig from his FANTA CAN and throws it with practiced precision at a nearby bin as the truck starts to drive off).
FANTA CAN: (Misses bin by two metres).
ATTRACTIVE WOMAN: My hero. (I don't speak Thai, so I can only speculate).
The tosser who travelled for longer than average
Scene: A WOMAN from New Zealand is drinking coffee in the communal kitchen area of a budget Seoul hostel. A British TOSSER enters, they exchange polite smiles.
TOSSER: (Looking out on the uninspiring residential view) I really like South Korea. I'd say it's definitely one of my favourite countries I've been to in Asia.
WOMAN: Yeah, me too.
TOSSER: I've been to a lot of countries on this trip, but overall this is definitely up there with the better ones.
WOMAN: I think it's just because everything works, you know? And I love the Koreans' attitude, they're...
TOSSER: Didn't my last remark make you curious as to how long I've been travelling?
WOMAN: Oh... yeah, how long's it been?
TOSSER: Almost two... (Dramatic pause) years.
WOMAN: Oh. Wow.
TOSSER: Yeah, not months. Years. That's longer than the average person spends away from home in one go, isn't it? I expect you're very surprised and - dare I say it - rather impressed by that.
WOMAN: It can be tough travelling for so long, can't it? I've been away five years this time, mostly volunteering between Borneo and South America. Wherever they ask me to go, I feel obliged to...
TOSSER: How fucking dare you.
WOMAN: Excuse me?
Horizontal, well-framed, coloured-in travel photos always scream 'amateur' to me.
I prefer to make them look rubbish
I prefer to make them look rubbish
Fortunately for the world, I spend most of my time by myself, and only let off these feelings in blogs through an extremely thin veil of irony. If you do ever find yourself getting annoyed by immodest things I write, be comforted that there's a growing part of me that wishes I'd had more to leave behind 'back home' and hadn't intentionally been treading water and keeping my distance from people, feelings and experiences to avoid getting too attached before inevitably moving on again.
I'm a born nomad, but next time I roost I'm going to roost hard.