USA 1996 🇺🇸🇨🇦

And home again

Immersing myself in the local cultureWell, it’s good to be home. After four weeks away, you start to miss the niceties of home – the mess in the spare room, the vomit-coloured carpet, the washers that need replacing.

But our trip to America last month was well worth it. We got to see so many interesting things, and to discover that America is just like Australia – except for the bits that aren’t.

The great thing about going anywhere where you have relatives is that they are almost always hospitable enough to sponge off – at least for accommodation. Usually it’s a consequence of

(a) them feeling guilty about how much you paid in airfares
(b) them being thoroughly nice people.

A lot of the time they insisted on paying the restaurant bills, too. It became sort of a game – who could snatch it off the table quicker. A few almost got ripped to shreds in the process.

Actually, I was a bit alarmed that most of the friends and relatives we met were dentists, lawyers, Amway salesmen and/or Christian fundamentalists, but apart from that they were all really nice.


If there’s one thing that I noticed as different in America, it wasn’t the driving on the other side of the road – it wasn’t the 50 channels but nothing to watch – it wasn’t the laughably quaint gun laws – it was quite definitely the plumbing.

America, as a nation, seems to have decided to eradicate the humble plug. No basin, no bath that I saw had a conventional plug. They all had weird push-button plugs that work with varying degrees of effectiveness. In fact, none of them worked. They all drained water as slowly as an alcoholic with kidney failure.

They have also largely done away with the conventional wash tap. But they haven’t quite decided on what should replace it. Some basins have handle-type taps that turn the same way, others turn different ways for hot and cold, which once left me trying to turn the cold for over a minute when I didn’t remember which way I’d turned it on.

Some taps have a joystick. Others (particularly public toilets) have push buttons with a timer so they run for a few seconds after you let go. Some have really really stupid push buttons which run *only* when you have them pressed down, making it impossible to wash both your hands at once. And if you only had one arm, you’d probably need to bother someone into running the tap for you. Not a good look.

“Hey man, can you reach over and hold this down?”

“Get away from me, you pervert.”

I suppose you’re expecting me to talk about the corolois effect (or however the heck it’s spelt), and how the water goes down the toilet in a particular way in particular hemispheres? Okay. In Phoenix I clearly observed the water going down the toilet ANTI-CLOCKWISE. Now that I’m back in Melbourne, I will just go to the toilet and flush and observe.

…a few minutes later…

Okay, it went down clockwise. Is this always the case? Is it caused by the way the Earth spins? Or is it just a theory designed to keep the kids interested in science? Perhaps we’ll never know.

I must have a quick rant about toilet cubicles. Some, for instance the McDonalds near the south rim of the Grand Canyon, have cubicles with apparently strategically placed gaps in the doorways so anybody and everybody can see what’s going on while you attempt to take care of business! Very off-putting, I’m telling you! I ended up holding it, and taking care of business at the Canyon.

(No, not *into* the Canyon – Oh heck, you know what I mean.)

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.