Out on the Razzle in America

United Kingdom
Freelance writer, literary graduate and minor lad. In America for pleasure, not business. I've never been before, so I thought I should. Should I have done it all at once? Can it all be done at once? Only one way to find out...

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

A quick word on moderation

To follow on from the Washington bit, Americans cannot avoid being outstanding. This is not to say outstandingly good, just special. Whether this means having the biggest burger, truck, breasts, etc, or being the first to mass produce, to go into space, or to invent stir-in powdered cheese, they just can't help it.
Everything is extreme. In the service industry, Americans are extremely nice. As a result, they expect extremely regular and large tips. If you don't give them, they get extremely upset. All their national sports are singular actions extended to their extremes: baseball is a man throwing a ball until one man hits it exceptionally well; basketball is several men scoring hoops until one man stops another man by jumping exceptionally well; football is several exceptionally large men pushing each other until one pushes through, in order to stop one man from throwing a ball exceptionally far to a man running exceptionally fast. All of the nuances, the football set-ups, the pitcher's curveballs, the three-point baskets, are just the fripperies around very basic actions.
Americans in the cities, if not working, are either a: fat or b: jogging. There is nothing in between. The military techniques and car industry are legendarily extreme. Vegas is extreme. Bling is extreme. Laziness is extreme. Nowhere is this last one more evident than in the total pointlessness that is the Segway, yours for only $5500.
The Segway is a two-wheeled personal mobility device, hugely engineered to accommodate various gyroscopes, motors and batteries, balancing, and propelling, up to 250 pounds worth of perfectly walkable human at up to 15 miles per hour, or slightly slower than you can run, for up to 24 miles, or slightly less than you could walk in a full day. It can carry no real bags, which is less than you, can negotiate no steps, again, less than you, and cannot withstand serious bumps or rough terrain, which you can. It is immensely American, cruising along at a slightly higher speed than normal, expending slightly less energy (yours that is, the thing still needs charging), just revelling in the knowledge that you are more technologically advanced than the pleb you are whirring past. They are brilliant fun, and any moron can pilot them with little difficulty. I took a tour with a guide and her mum up and down Washington. For this kind of activity, they have a purpose, cutting walking tours down to shorter, less sweaty excursions. New legislation in DC will put them on the roads though, and without indicators, brake lights, or any kind of protection, you're better off on a bike.
The mum invited me to dinner afterwards, which was very nice, and again, very American. The locals are lovely, as long as you catch them when they are not working, and not going through the motions of being lovely. You can understand why, they probably just push themselves too far. It's that extreme thing again.

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