Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Home Sweet Home
At the risk of seeming like a provincial rube, here are some additional thoughts on my return to the United States after spending two weeks in England, Scotland and France:
I like the way American toilets flush. I like the predictable swirl of soft water and not some haphazard release of the Aswan Dam that sends errant fecal matter into the air of a bathroom designed for a dwarf.
I like the liberty of ordering what I want on a menu. I'm not interested in pre-fixed choices. I don't want your starter plates. Or your firsts. Or your seconds. Or even your delicious mandatory desserts. If I want two appetizers for my meal, that's what I'll order. And any scowling or whispered grumblings on your part will do nothing to dissuade me.
I like Oxygen. I like filling my lungs with clean, fresh air, which ironically enough is in greater supply in Los Angeles than it is on the streets of London, Glasgow, Edinburgh or Paris. Where, it is not uncommon to see children chain smoking hand-rolled cigarettes. By the way, if you're standing on line to get into the Musee D'orsey and you light up up a fag while surrounded by other would be museum goers who may not be interested in contracting emphysema, you're not some culture-loving bon vivant. You're a Grade A douchebag.
I like American money. Our coins make sense. A blind man can tell the difference between a penny, a nickel, a dime and a quarter. Why would you make coins that are worth two Euros or pounds, look and feel the same as the same 30 cent coin need to operate a pay Toilette? Oh yeah, I don't like paying to use a bathroom.
I like American TV. The once great British Empire has been reduced to a Simon Cowell orchestrated freak talent show. Like us, the Brits have upwards of 500 separate cable channels. Unlike us, every one of those channels is populated by some worthless variation of American Idol. So You Think You Can Juggle. Is Your GrandMother A Pop Star? Show Us Your Magic Act. Can You Do It On A UniCycle? Are You Blightey's Next Great Throat Singer?
I like personal space. The historians may say what they will. They may explain the early 20th century rush to Ellis Island as a collective journey to start a better life in the New World. Personally, I think those historians are wrong. I'm convinced those Germans, Jews, Poles, Italians and Potato-Eaters simply wanted to come to America to put some distance between themselves and their smelly, obnoxiously loud neighbors.
I like retailers who understand that the customer is king. On New Year's Eve, we stopped in at a pharmacy near the Eiffel Tower to pick up some OTC cough syrup. While I was retrieving my medicine the store manager began a fracass with my daughter, claiming she had knocked a jar of cold cream off the shelf. My daughter claims she did not. Then the manager motioned for me to pay for the lost merchandise. And she did it in a most unpleasant manner that can only be affected by a snooty Parisian. I looked at her, smiled, and as we walked out the door, sarcastically reminded her of three little words that could only be uttered by an American: Nor Man Dee.