The vacation is over and we’re all back safe snug in our château away from home a continent away.
In this, my first post back, I wanted to mention some of the things I noticed that had escaped my view before. I do not mean that I will spend this e-space discussing aspects of the culture I now find myself in. I’ll leave that to others (such as here and here and here).
Instead, I hunt-and-peck away to shine a light on those curious aspects of behavior in the United States of America that I had appreciated before. The disadvantage of being submerged in a culture is that I really didn’t see things. It’s akin to asking a fish what’s the difference between water air. How does the fish know what air is when all it swims in is water?
(Yes, I realize the absurdity of the above comparison. Of course one cannot ask a fish a question because it doesn’t understand English. It’s a metaphor…just go with it.)
So, with my approval and your perusal, are the aspects of American life I noticed after being away from the land of the free and the home of the brave for nearly 365 revolutions of the Earth.
Obesity. Mon Dieu! I was astounded by the girth, width, and mass of some of the folks I saw walking around the streets of America. I knew obesity in the United States was a growing problem, but while I lived there I never fully appreciated it. A few weeks ago I saw folk who – to use the old joke – had their own gravitational pull. There were citizens who could not see their own feet. I don’t see a great deal of obese people over here (despite all the glorious food and wine) so I was surprised to see members of the American masses who had a mass equal to all the members of The Brady Bunch.
Piercings. The youngsters of the United States have no monopoly on body piercings and even when I lived in Virginia, I was aware of boys wearing earrings and even the occasional eyebrow piercing. However, while I was walking around California and the Old Dominion and even while watching television, I was amazed at the number of people sporting holes in their ears, cheeks, tounges, navels, wrists, and ankles. In addition, I can recall when seeing someone with a stretched ear was an incredible rarity. Now-a-days, this aspect of body piercing is becoming more and mor popular.
Messenger Bags. It is possible that this accessory was wildly popular as of two years ago, but I was amazed at how many of these items I saw gracing the shoulders of people who were not a bicycle working as a courier.
Seashells and Screens. In the book Fahrenheit 451, author Ray Bradbury writes of a technology called “Seashells“. This item is similar to earbuds as they allow the characters of his dystopian novel to listen to music incessantly. Characters can also do nothing by watching wall-sized television screens. When I read this work, I understood these twin items of technology to show what happens to the members of a society when they can bliss out on entertainment at any time. I was reminded of Bradbury’s citizens as I looked around the streets and airport terminals of the United States and saw person after person fully engrossed in the iDevices.
Baseball. Dear Heavens…this game is incredibly slow. When compared to the beautiful (and fast-paced) game of soccer, the national pastime is like watching grass dry. The pitcher hurls the ball…and then there’s a good minute or two before anything else happens. I love the game, but it took me going away for a year to fully realize that this sport is the tortoise to soccer’s hare. That’s not a crticism…just an observation.
I wonder what I will notice after being away for two years.