So I’ve taken some time off to get myself readjusted here stateside. Some of the things that I thought would be tough or weird really weren’t so weird. Like the gi-normous trucks that soccer moms drive. They still look strange to me but they don’t give me that punch in the gut feeling of wow, this feels weird. Although the guy who drives the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid? That’s weird for sure.
Let me get right to the list. This first one only just occurred to me tonight.
1. Vin Chaud. (Or lack thereof.) Hot wine. I mean, I can’t get my head around it. My brain cannot compute how such a thing is not only not an immensely popular winter drink here, but it doesn’t even exist. Imagine you’re out and about doing some holiday shopping, freezing your butt off and someone offers you a hot wine. There’s no chance you’re turning that down and you know it. It’s awesome. Let’s get with the program, people.
2. Kids cups. How come when you go to a restaurant they always put the kids drinks in giant plastic cups with straws and lids? My boys aren’t babies anymore. Their fingers can manipulate a glass. It’s both insulting and wasteful. Why don’t you go ahead offer just Gerber on the kids’ menu?
Now I’ve learned to ask to have my kids get their water in a regular glass. It sounds weird coming out of my mouth, only because it sounds ridiculous that I have to ask it, and most servers look puzzled or insulted. The other night at The Mellow Mushroom, the server came back with these giant cups. We could have done the ASL challenge with these cups and had water left over for our meal.
The server handed us the cups and said, “Here you go, water in regular cups.” The way she said it sound annoyed, like, “You wanted regular water, this is what you get.” I didn’t care. Save some plastic.
As a sub-note to that, what’s with all the ice? And why not just hand out a carafe of water? You know, water doesn’t have to be freezing-ass-cold all the time.
3. Leaf Blowers. Really, what’s the deal? We live in a duplex and our neighbor asked when the landlord was going to come and blow the leaves because it was really looking crappy. This is just another one of those things I can’t get my head around. Since when do leaves on a lawn make it look trashy? They’re leaves, not beer cans.
Our neighbors down the street had their kid out in early September with the leaf blower. The thing was going full blast and I swear to you there were maybe 4 leaves on their walkway.
On some random concrete island in a strip mall I saw a dude all geared up like a ghostbuster going at the leaves with a vengeance. Why? Are these new non-biodegradeable leaves? Also, there’s this invention known as a “rake” that tends to work quite well without any gasoline required.
4. Giant lawns. I get backyards. But these giant areas of grass that are all pristine that no one can walk on because they’re your precious property? It’s weird that I have to tell the boys they can’t walk on other people’s’ lawns. Like, here’s all this nature, but don’t enjoy it, stick to the concrete.
Here you never see anyone on the lawns. Once in a while I’ll see a group of kids, but really the lawns are just for show. Giant areas that no one wants to take care of themselves that are really like moats to keep the people in the castles separate from the riff-raff that might be walking the sidewalk. And that brings me to another point.
5. Ghost sidewalks. Patrick asked when we first moved here, “Why do they have sidewalks if no one walks on them?” So true. Sidewalks are mainly for losers, I told him. Well, I didn’t say it, but it’s probably true.
When you’re driving down these four lane “streets” at 50 mph and you see someone on the sidewalk it jumps out at you. Usually it’s someone down on their luck, because no one would choose to walk some of these streets as there is NOWHERE to walk to. Sure there are strip malls, and we can walk to a couple of stores, but in most areas seeing a human being on a pedestrian designated area is no more normal than seeing a giraffe.
6. Bikes. When you bike around here, you have to gear up like you’re competing in the Tour de France. No wonder no one ever does it because it’s such huge freaking hassle. God forbid you don’t wear a helmet. People will want you arrested or committed.
Also, there’s another thing about bikes. Everyone rides mountain bikes or ten speeds or whatever. Rebecca brought back this bike from Paris that she bought off a guy in the street. (Seriously, a guy renting and selling used bikes in the street.) It has these handle bars that are high up and force you to sit upright when you’re riding it. I rode it one day, and man, it is such a huge difference. It’s the difference between feeling like Mary Poppins and feeling like Lance Armstrong. And who are we kidding really? Most of us want to feel like Mary Poppins when we go out on a bike. Let’s just chill out already.
Ok, one last thing and I think I’m done.
7. Beer. What shocks me are the choices available and the fact that so much of it has to be cold. That’s one of the biggest things I had to get used to, which is odd since I harbor no ill will toward beer or beer drinkers.
Let me backtrack. Before we left for Paris a friend of ours told us what it was like when he came back from the Peace Corps. He said his mother sent him to the store to buy tomato sauce. He had to leave the store because he was so overwhelmed by the choices. At the time, I thought to myself, there was no way I would be like that. I wasn’t going to a developing nation. I was going to France.
But man, it is strange. We were in the refrigerated section, P and me, and he said, “Why is there so much butter?” I tried to explain it but kept tripping over my words until I gave up, muttering, “I don’t know. I just don’t know.” And we used to live in the land of butter- France!
Back to the beer. It’s really strange to see an entire row of refrigerators running full blast to keep everyone’s beer cold. I remember our store in Paris that had one tiny refrigerator. Like something meant for a dorm room. It had random singles of beer or soda or whatever that people could grab if they really really needed something cold. But six packs and cases, no way.
Plus there were roughly 5 beers to choose from. Not like the 50 here. Dogfish IPA wheat stout pumpkin triple boc whatever. Who has time to figure this out? It’s the same thing at restaurants. You know, just the words “beer menu” leave me mentally exhausted. Serve two good beers on tap and be done with it. These places with 150 beers on tap? Doesn’t it feel like an establishment with 150 beers is trying a little too hard to make everyone happy? It’s like dating. Wouldn’t you be more attracted to someone who was like, “You know what, this is what I got, it’s good and if you don’t like it, there’s the door.”
It’s like everything with the choices here is designed to please every single person. Everything is easy and convenient, but at the same time not very interesting or intriguing.
We’re taking this French class on Saturdays and the teacher, who is from Paris noted that “Everything you need is no more than 15 minutes away.” So true. It feels like we’re in some futuristic dystopia where the community’s been programmed to meet all your needs to keep you satiated. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the Truman Show. I’m not, am I? Not that you would tell me.