It’s been about ten years since I’d lived in America since I moved back here ten days ago. Oh, I’ve visited many times since, but things are slightly different when one lives here. Here are a few poins I thought are worthy of note. They are personal observations about my first ten days in Pittsburgh, not an ideological primer.
- Coupons are worth it. I saw a lady at the supermarket shrink her checkout bill from $50 to $35 with coupons. Also, the checkout lady refered to them as “cue-pons”, like Mel Brooks’ character in Mad About You. I liked that touch. I’m starting to look into that whole coupon thing. Yes, I am now officially an old lady.
- My Mac, my internet router and my debit card all arrived early. In the case of my debit card, it was early by several days, and it had a PIN that had been preset by me. Toto, we’re not in Europe any more.
- I like root beer. I used to confuse it with ginger ale, which is to “ginger-y” for me. But root beer, I like. I also like creme soda, though creme soda tends for suffer more when it’s in its “diet” version.
- The lady at the pharmacy remembers me and reminds me to take my loyalty card. It’ve lived here ten days. After ten years in London, not a single person behind a counter knew who I was.
- Verizon’s help desk is well-meaning but not really motivated. Not that I can blame them. When she asked me to open Internet Explorer on my Mac, assuming it was running Windows, I quietly stayed on Chrome. A good thing I was not running Linux. (This last sentence is so going to get quoted out of context.)
- Pittsburgh is not Manhattan. It’s not easy to find a breakfast with eggs on a weekday in Shadyside. Pamela’s the only one I found so far.
- The food is healthy. I’m sorry to all of those who assume otherwise, but in my experience it’s true. Don’t get me wrong: unhealthy food is available, and quite easily, too. But on average, I’ve felt well fed without taking huge amounts of insulin without eating at home much more easily than in London or Paris. It’s just that here, when you order a salad, you actually get some greens. Same thing with vegetables. It may be because I eat at CMU a lot, but today, my taco salad had a few tacos, but it was mostly veggies and salsa. And the egg and ham breakfast I had earlier was just that: eggs, ham and a hash brown. No bread, no butter, no baked beans, no croissant, no fried slice, no pastries, no “are you sure you’re sure you don’t want a pastry with that? You can always eat it later.”
- The buses work better than in London. Now, the buses in Peru worked better than in London (really; I was there and tried them) so it’s not really that much of a challenge. But it’s nice to see that some cities outside of New York in the U.S. have good public transportation. Everything is still made for people with cars, though. But it’s possible to deal without a car.
- I found generic sucralose (Splenda).
On the whole, it looks like this country is every bit the consumerist’s heaven it’s depicted to be. But I’m really not sure it’s a bad thing. After all, in Britain and France, the main reason we don’t get those sort of things is because we teach the consumers to lower their expectations. That is my experience, at least. (“Well, yes, the train is going to get there four hours late, but you can’t expect it to be on time every time.”)
The U.S., like every country, is not without problems. Actually, it has problems galore. Just look at the news is you want a comical version of the situation and to the Daily Show if you want a soberingly accurate one. But I’m not sure its consumerism is really one of them at all. The people at che checkouts who remember my name seem happy because they’re doing their job well by remembering who I am. That’s nothing to shun or sneer at. If anything, it brings them job satisfaction, which in turn might contribute to some measure of happiness. And I am told by some people who are more learned than I am on the matter that happiness is a very pleasant thing.