Some more American things

Technology

Technology in the US is a strange mix of ahead-of-the-rest-of-the-world, behind-the-rest-of-the-world and on-another-planet entirely.

Internet: ahead of the world if you can pay for it, a long way behind if you can’t. That’s why companies who sell fast broadband still compare their speeds to dial-up.

Phones: all of the above. The US is on another planet with its strange collection of CDMA networks and small GSM providers that operate on different frequencies to the rest of the world. Phone plans are expensive, dumb phones remain in the ascendancy and mobile data is priced as a luxury add-on and not an essential part of a 21st century phone plan. But at the same time LTE is becoming more available every day.

Internet shopping: not a thing. I’m struggling to get my head around this, but being a long way from Asia, having lots of cheap land and fuel and labor at $7.25/hr means that bricks-and-mortar retail stores are actually cheaper than their online equivalents.

I already wrote about cheques being used for everything, and the not-yet-existence of internet banking. There’s also this.

The environment

What environment?

Recycling is opt-in, biweekly and who knows how much actually gets recycled. People use air conditioners all the time, including the 18 or so hours of each day when it’s actually not hot outside. People dry all their laundry in driers, which provide pretty damning and instant evidence of the existence of anthropogenic climate change (I know this because the drier for our apartment block is right outside our door, in a little sauna).

People drive big cars big distances, burn lots of cheap and nasty fuel, and eat industrially produced foods that travel all around the country in big refrigerated trucks.

Not everyone lives like this, of course, but those that do make me wonder how Australia could possibly emit even more CO2 per capita than the USA. That’s a bit embarrassing.

Also, bizarrely, dual flush toilets don’t exist.

Drive thrus

In most of the world running a morning’s errands means driving or taking public transport to some kind of central location, like a mall or a town square or a main street or a business district, and walking around it. In the US it’s kind of the same but the central location is spread out over several miles and instead of your feet you have a car.

You can drive thru at the bank, the drug store, the coffee shop, the bread shop, the post office, the restaurant, the liquor store, and the supermarket (though I believe you have to order ahead for that one). When you’re not driving thru you drive right up to the store, swap your car for a trolley (called a cart, so it still feels like you’re driving a car), and then proceed to drive it around collecting consumables. It’s like the Game of Life.

Thrift stores, antique malls and yard sales

Cheap retail means even cheaper second-hand retail, and on this point America definitely wins. Which reminds me, I need to buy some coffee for that nice little espresso maker I bought!

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