Just got back from LA last night, and it was a good trip. 6 days, or a really long weekend, as we were treating it. Had a good time and saw lots. Totally mispacked. Like, I haven’t mispacked so badly since I went to Mexico that one time? At the last minute? And remembered to bring 18 books and two or three swim suits but totally forgot to pack shirts. Yeah. Oops. I got a really funny look from the Mexican security guard who searched my luggage on the way out of the country. I was compelled to explain that I like to travel light, which is a total lie, because it sounded better than, ’cause I’m an idiot and this was a last minute trip and I didn’t make a packing list’. Good excuse to spend a week at a resort doing nothing but reading and drinking before noon. (We’ll overlook that one day I went to the Telum ruins, and to the Xel-Ha snorkeling site another – even on vacations where I want to do nothing, I find myself unable to pass up the opportunity to go see cool things. Not the worst trait I have.)
Still, this time the bad packing wasn’t my fault. The weather had been a steady pleasant 22oc every time I looked, so I packed for that – skirts and sundresses and flip flops. Sadly, the weather was more like 10-14oc, and I didn’t take my hoody off all week. So much for the tan and the sundresses and the warmth. We didn’t pack an umbrella (it’s LA! Sun and warmth! Oops.) and had 3 days with rain, one day being a torrential endless storm. We bought a bunch of CDs at Amoeba Records (new and used – all sorts of random goodness) and a Target run filled up the rest of the suitcases.
I’ll put up a couple of pictures when we’ve taken them off the camera, but in the mean time, let me just say that for all Canada and America seem so similar, they are really not the same, and I’m always so very glad to return to the frozen white north. There’s an attitude that seems to underlay American life that’s different than that in Canada – maybe it stems from Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness versus our Peace, order and good government. Our countries come from a fundamentally very different place about how to be in the world, and travelling always makes that clear to me. There is a seems to be an undertone of, well, screw someone else before they can screw you, and then be rude about it. Dealing with customer service people, like the assholes at tvtickets.com was the worst. They cheerfully screwed over a room of 100 people who had tickets for a tv taping – they release twice as many tickets as they have seats but don’t warn you about this fact, and do it every day. I was in tears when I found out we couldn’t get in to the Big Bang Theory taping – a taping I stalked the internet for weeks to get, a taping I’d based our flights around, the thing I was most excited about. And they? Were total assholes about it, and ended it with a series of glib, “Thanks for being so understanding!” while I cried. But it also came out in all those ads on tv for class action lawsuits and the driving (!!) and the total lack of respect for anyone else’s time. (Parking the car at the rental lot took 3 attempts. The signs were incorrect, as were the handout they gave when we checked in. And then they were rude about us not knowing what to do. You have a form that says fill this in and return it to the check in desk? I will fill it in and bring it to the desk. To have the check in desk tell me that they don’t need the form and the car needs to be checked by someone outside and we don’t have to come in at all? Really? That was a good use of anyone’s time?)
Now. This isn’t to say that I hate Americans or anything silly like that. I’ve met lots of Americans – and many are genuinly nice and wonderful people. One of my best friends is a dual citizen! (Isn’t that the line you’re supposed to use when you’re trying to not sound racist but actually are?) I’m not trying to say anything about individuals – just broad sweeping statements about cultural differences. I can show you a rude American and you could find a rude Canadian easily. (I ride city transit everyday – I know where to easily find them.) The American dream seems to be underpinned by a desire to win – to be the best – to strive. Canada feels like it’s underpinned by a desire to have life go smoothly. To not make a scene when something is upsetting. (But damn will we bitch when you’re gone – Canadian secret. We all complain constantly behind closed doors, but we’ll try not to be rude to your face.) To be pleased with the “socialist safety net” or whatever insulting term you’d like to use for when you know that when you get sick, it won’t finacially destroy you. (True story: my dad died of lung and brain cancer. He was sick for ~9 months. Two rounds of chemo. Three of radiation. (I think.) He had in house nursing care at the end and a hospital bed in the house and time at the hospital and drugs and a couple of ambulence rides and multiple CT scrans and MRIs. My mother figures the bigest expense was parking at the hosiptal, and they didn’t have 3rd party insurance before he was diagnosed. So. Health care may not be perfect, but it’s treated my family well.) And the homeless problem! Oh, it was heartbreaking. I once read that the American homeless are at least twice as worst off than the Canadian homeless, but that doesn’t even seem to come close. Our system has giant cracks that people fall through, but there are so many more safety nets, and fewer people and I’m guessing more resources directed in that direction.
I don’t really have a point here, and have probably offended a bunch of lovely Americans. (I’m bitching behind a closed door here, aren’t I? You can’t see me…) It’s just always a bit of a surprise to see how different my home and native land is to the country south. We get the same tv and movies and music and so forth, but it hasn’t made everything the same yet, and man, I’m okay with that.
But. America? You could send up your taco trucks and bbq and fried chicken and local cider and loose liquore laws (hard alcohol in a grocery store!) and cheap shipping and warmer weather up here any time you want. Please?