An Englishman in New York


Okay, Okay… I’m not in New York, but An Englishman in Oklahoma City doesnt work.

So, I just wanted to tell you how my trip has panned out, a random morning in my random life. A brief description of  the differences between the English way and the American way.

Gerroff!

Gerroff!

First, I woke up at 5am. I didnt intend to, but its hot here, much hotter than in the UK, which means I’m not used to it. So naturally when I try to sleep under the covers I end up sweating a couple pounds away in the night. I do the smart thing therefore, I sleep on top of the covers and keep nicely cool especially when the air conditioning kicks in…. .hmmmm. Anyhow, as I said I woke up at 5am… not because I wanted to, but because clearly my totally exposed bottom is too much of a temptation for the kitten that owns the flat. At 5am exactly, the miniature fluffball that I shall call ‘Damian’ decided to crawl up my body and paw-pad my bum. I dont know why its called paw-padding, the damned feline was using the sharp end of its claws!

So having screamed at the top of my voice, waking the entire house up, running to the bathroom to see if I was bleeding and washing myself down with cold water to get over the shock, I return to the bed and to sleep, which is now uncomfortably sweaty cos I’m terrified of being minced again. Naturally my fiance gives me as much sympathy as I will next time she sees a spider.

At 7:30am the skiddles decide that enough is enough and I must be put to my proper use. No more sleeping allowed, now I have become a climbing frame. They leap on top of me with the athletic ability of the russian gymnasium team, and just like a pack of lions ripping through a dead gaselle, they rip through the last of my dreams and bring me to a bumpy reality.

Not as bad as this one!

Very Useful

I stumble into the bathroom for my morning ablutions. Now I have to tell you, bathrooms, and more specifically toilets… are different in the UK. If anyone is coming over here for a holiday, you must be prepared for this. The water lever in the toilet bowl is much much higher than in the UK. I shall say that again to re-emphasise it. The toilet water level is much much higher than in the UK.

Now (I am trying to be delicate here) in britain we may occasionally miss our target, and cause a little smearing on the lower bowl, but this is easily cleared up with a quick wipe of the loo brush. In the USA, it appears the higher water level avoids this problem completely. However, this causes three other unexpected problems.

First and least worrying is that with a low water level, any toilet paper disgarded generally covers any deposits left in the bowl, so when you turn to flush, you see nothing. You can look carefully into the depths of the bowl with the only thing on your mind being ‘I wonder how many sheets they use in Africa?’, but with a higher water level, there is more surface area, and if you arent very careful at looking sternly forward at all times, you may accidentally discover floaty things! Before you know it you have lunged for the flusher and vowed to yourself you will never again use a toilet on the USA, well that or you will never eat again. Perhaps thats why the models are so skinny. hmmmm. I am telling you, because if you arent expecting it….

Very Teethy

Very Teethy

The second problem is considerably more significant. With a water level only an inch lower than your bottom, you really dont want to stray too far on your reach…. below! Especially in a supermarket toilet, which are unbelievably clean by the way. My beautiful fiance was convinced I had gotten lost when I finally emerged out of the loo. How could i tell her that I had been touched by the hand of pooh and had spent the next 2 hours scrubbing myself clean.

Finally there is the sound issue. With a higher water level a man… I cant go for the noise reducing, china hitting pee. Instead I have to aim for the much noisier water hitting pee. So the middle of the night pee is like betting it all on black. I have no idea whether my girl will wake up and if she does what will she think. Quite honestly, even though we are engaged, there’s still only so much reality a girl can take. Worst still what if she is not impressed… what if she thinks a true man should be able to hold more in his bladder… okay, now that is bothering me.

Anyhow, after I get dressed we decide to pop out for breakfast. I wrote about breakfast before, a full english breakfast in a greasy spoon cafe, but instead of that humbling and risky adventure into botchulism and listeria we went to an ‘all you can eat’ breakfast place, where the kids took their plates and filled them sky high with a healthy old fashioned breakfast of gummybears, jelly beans and chocolate mousse. My fiance and I were far more reserved, having a giant omelet followed by mashed potatoes and half a cow.

This idea of the all you can eat, whatever you want style restaurants would be totally alien to the british public, as would only paying for your drinks once, and getting as many refills as you like. You dont even have to go anywhere to get it, The waitress brings the iced fizzypops, iced tea and coffee regularly ensuring you never run out. In fact the only thing you “run out” of in the USA appears to be time, because they seem to badger you to leave quickly once you have finished eating. This surprises me as in britain you can be the first person to arrive and last to leave and the staff wont bat an eyelid, having said that, the reason they wont bat an eyelid is probably because they are nowhere to be seen, either smoking out the back before sticking their fingers in the food in the kitchen.

Hmmm. I wonder?

Hmmm. I wonder?

Having “filled up” to a level totally unnatural to me, we wobble out to the people carrier (for 4 people?) and go off to town. Hmmm, town… yes thats more of a idea than an actual thing. Dont get me wrong. You can buy anything you want here, they have sizes going up to 6xxl! You can buy a pair of pants that look like a flag, or a flag that looks like a pair of pants! The trouble is that with the exception of a couple of ‘malls’ everywhere else is what we call a warehouse outlet store. Imagine Cribs Causway, without the shopping centre part, then imagine that on every street. The smallest shops are still massive.

In comparison we drove to the latin area the other day, and suddenly the whole place thrived with life. Music coming from every small shop, spanish being shouted across streets, and an explosion of colour and culture swamping you with its intimate and personal touch. The smells of meats being slow cooked in chillies, or peanuts being toasted in upside-down dustbin lids, almost make you want to swing your samba hips and dance with a mexican passion. The culture shock hits you once again, as you find yourself trying foods from a street market stall that you would only risk at the state fayre.

Just a few miles later though we drive to another area where OKC hits you with surprisingly interesting streets filled with ambitious personalised houses that Prince Charles could only ever yearn for. The archetecture is all over the place but that doesnt seem to matter, as each and every owner seems to have put their own stamp on their buildings. English names like Dunroamin are dismissed for the far more extravagant Rivendell Ranch, Klingon’s Castle or Hogwarts Hollow! What you have is houses that wish they were made a hundred years ago next to homes that look like they belong in science fiction novels. Its fascinating, and kind of fun.

Wookie Hole?

Wookies Hole?

All-in-all though the experience is surprising different, and I still feel culture shock coming here. From the incredibly flat landscape and the ridiculously straight roads, to the vibrant specks of culture, music, art and powerful bostonian archetecture, there is always something dramatic to look at. And I have yet to meet an american I didnt like a little.

They are a little naive about the rest of the world, and some are a little closed off too, but they greet you warmly, normally with a little food and a big smile. They let you talk even if they dont have a clue what you’re saying, they often enjoy your opinion even if they think you are wrong. And they always make you feel welcome.

For me there is no doubt. I am definitely warming to this big old state, and even if im not ready to don a baseball cap, drive a truck and buy a rifle, I am just about ready face my own personal prejudices. And perhaps its time for me to make a little lemonade, and invite a few people round for a barbeque… do they even have briquettes here?

Chicken Leg anyone?

Chicken Leg anyone?

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~ by eggplantinspace on September 15, 2009.

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