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.
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