Sunday, July 06, 2008

Pride and prejudice

In the course of my packing I came across the journal I kept through my holiday in the US. The last entry is a list of observations written on the flight back. For some reason I've never put it on the blog and I will proceed to do so now.

Things I learnt (it says),

1. "The American people" considered as a single entity has a low quotient of independent thought. This is not their fault – all official communication goes to painful lengths to talk to the lowest common denominator. Everyone else has no choice but to follow.
2. This entity is also surprisingly chary of having a good time. Nor does it laugh at a joke unless it comes labelled as such.
3. The security measures at the airports are by and large all activity and very little action. I went through "special screening" three times in one day with a rather large lighter left in my bag by accident and nobody found it even after an elaborate search involving tipping the contents on to the counter.
4. In Orange County, people clap when Matt Damon acts the hero (as Jason Bourne, in this case) in much the same way that Rajnikanth is greeted with cheers and whistles in Chennai.
5. People were better dressed and worse behaved in LAX than all the airports I went through.
6. In Philly, they don't go to the beach, they go "down the shore".
7. Here, "think of Europe" is not useful in describing Indian diversity because many say European the same way the ignorant say Indian.
8. They don't know English. They can't speak it. They can't understand it. Only a few can read or write it. The only way to survive is to treat "American" as a different language and, as in any foreign country, learn to communicate in it.
9. They can't make dessert. Even their own apple pie is ruined with whipped cream or caramel (pronounced "carmel").
10. They also can't make cheese, bread or chocolate. Perhaps the collective taste buds have long been deep fried out of commission.
11. Farmers' markets, fair trade shops and organic stores are very big among the socially, politically, environmentally aware. But coming from an amoral industry and a cynical race, I am deeply suspicious of anything that's on such a large scale.
12. Everything, but everything, is hard sold. You are hustled aggressively, constantly by billboards, leaflets, license plates, museums, park notices, everybody – in the same spirit as taxi drivers and souq merchants in the picturesque countries.
13. They don't do customer service. In any form, ever.
14. The relentless cheeriness of strangers seems empty and annoying to begin with, but you slowly realize that they genuinely believe in themselves as a friendly race.
15. They should get out more.


Thom said...

I wish I could say, "You can't come to a country for four weeks and damn it so," but I can't. Very sad.

Thom said...

We just watched 'Rendition' and at the end of it, we looked at each other and both said, "I don't want to live here any more".

Krishnan Menon said...

I see your point on rendition. very scary.

Anonymous said...

4,5. That's not America. Its California.

7. Europe? Is that, like, near London?

9. Traitor. You know you liked your venti car(a)mel macchiato with almond syrup and extra whipped cream.

11. You should have tried the alfalfa sprouts at vegan eateries. No amount of moral rectitute should make anyone eat that stuff. I'm even upset that my steaks are fed alfalfa.

Also heard in the aisles: Ithaca-- Man, its all hair and sandals.

13. You mean there's more to customer service than "do you want fries with that?"

15. We get out --with an RV and BBQ.

Gargoyle said...

Ha ha ha perhaps I should have had alfalfa with whipped cream and organic carmel. I agree that California really needs to be treated as a separate planet and have it's own set of observations.

Anonymous said...

Chicago too!

Anonymous said...

Chicago?! Lets be serious.

Chicago is a real city in the same sense that Queens is. I mean, everyone drives, there is a dirty river, and a big pointless (as always) Hindu temple...

JR said...

(The JR is Jayshree Rice)
Your blogs are becoming an integral part and parcel of my work breaks. I'm going to have caught up with most of them soon so get busy with the writing and posting :).

This one hit home in so many ways. Sammie insists on saying Carmel and it continues to drive me batty.

Numbers 7 and 8 are the bane of my life.

I can attest to number 10 too. I actually have a couple of friends who are egging me on to conduct cooking classes. Me?!

I rant to Sammie about number 14 at least twice a week. When I tell someone what I had for lunch or that I caught a movie over the weekend enthusiastic over the top Wows and That's Aawwesomes always leave me gobsmacked. Sammie has ample opportunities to rant back whenever we run into desis who will stare right through me after I've said a clear hello accompanied by a cheery smile. My turn to be annoyingly cheerful I suppose :).

I'd like permission to add one more to your list. They are quite blissfully unaware that pets aren't people. They love their dogs, cats or goldfish like family and expect you to enthusiastically share and express (ugh!) that love.

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