Very often after returning from the U.S. I contrast the chirpy cheerfulness of sales staff in the U.S. with the monosyllabic and apparent indifference of their counterparts in the UK. Arriving at Heathrow on Wednesday afternoon I bought a ticket for the bus and then a bottle of juice and was confronted by aforementioned monosyllabic staff.
For some reason, this time, I was more philosophical. Yes, the guy could have done with some training in how to relate to customers but on the other hand he was being himself. After dealing with car hire and mobile phone companies in the U.S. I had started to speculate that the U.S. forces people to modify their behaviour to suite the system. This arrangement is good in that it increases efficiency and allows greater material prosperity but I wonder whether the cost is increased alienation of people from society.
The Virgin Atlantic flight from L.A. to London had been on an airbus A300-600. The seats on this aircraft allowed virtually no room for one to move ones legs. I recall that, in the past, long haul flights made a big issue of telling you to perform leg exercises and I believe that this was to counter a tendency of long haul passengers to suffer blood clots in the legs following a flight. This is known as known as Deep Vein Thrombosis.
The emphasis on efficiency has led Virgin to pack the seats closer and closer together so that now it is not possible for even a person of my modest stature to raise ones legs once seated. Consequently the airline no longer deems it necessary to encourage passengers to exercise and I wonder whether the instances of known as Deep Vein Thrombosis, which can be fatal, have increased. I also wonder whether these chairs conform to any safety standards and whether Deep Vein Thrombosis is considered within these standards.
England was warm and sunny and I boarded a National Express bus to Brighton. Arriving home around 7:30pm I implemented my strategy for negating the effects of jet lag. There are two important factors to countering jet lag. The first is to attempt to stay awake during the daylight hours of the destination both on the aircraft and as soon as one arrives. For this one needs some kind of activity to perform on arrival. The second factor is to consume alcohol just prior to the desired sleep period.
As I had arrived home in early evening my course was clear. I occupied a couple of hours preparing and consuming a curry and then opened a bottle of beer.
I switched on Radio 4 and considered my three weeks in the United States. While driving around in California I had listened to talk radio. While American PBS fights a bravely to encourage intelligent debate it is a battle it seems destined to lose. I listened with interest to shock jocks and dismissed the right wing as bigoted. I listened to the liberals and began to think that there might be reasoned debate but soon realised that the left too is obsessed with over simplification and adherence to dogma.
A friend of mine once met an American woman who claimed to be allergic to glass and insisted on drinking beverages through a straw. He deduced from this that all Americans are potty and this is a widely held view in the United Kington. Personally I temper this with acceptance of difference and the knowledge that the United States is a vast country with numerous disparate people.
However, I sometimes find myself wondering, if Americans appear potty to the British, why do we not hold similar opinions of other nationalities? It is possible that pottyness is merely the most prominent defining character for Americans and that other nationalities too have their defining characters but I think that what is more likely is that the language we share with Americans enables us to gain an insight into their world view and that we are denied this insight with other nationalities. This reasoning is strengthened as I believe that Brits also consider Australians to be potty. Perhaps if we were fluent in Spanish or Chinese we would consider them potty too?
I guess that if an understanding of the language of a foreign country means that on is capable of appreciating their pottyness then, as English is the most common second language, it is the British who must appear the most potty and that is a stereotype that I am very happy to live with.