As a huge fan of efficiency, one must wonder why I ever chose to live in a country like Argentina. People have different types of priorities and personality traits when it comes to different facets of life. In work, efficiency and productivity rule (for me as for most Americans). But in my social life, I don’t mind having flexibility and spontaneity.
After having spent the last 3 weeks in Oregon (fabulous Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris!), I have to say that the following exemplify some of the gems of American life:
The garbage disposal.
Not only do I abhor, loathe and detest reaching into the sink to pick out soggy bread, inflated noodles, or minced mystery meat mixed with hair (inevitably), the process is simply inefficient and unsanitary. It’s impossible to get all of the food scraped off of one’s plate into the trash. Sauce and grease always act as an adhesive, inviting that tiny piece of fat you cut off of your gorgeous Argentine steak to stick around and have a paramecium party on your plate. With a disposal, you rinse this into the sink–where you wash the dish–and don’t have two separate processes for scraping the plate, then cleaning it, then cleaning the sink. One time clean. Efficient. Also, why would we want to keep organic waste in the house? It will only attract bugs, bacteria and fungus. Big thumbs up for garbage disposals.
This is another abhorrent practice in Argentina although I hear things are changing. Now in Portland, the land of hippie tree huggers (I proclaim with love), everything is recycled and you will be looked at with a death stare from the nearest vegan bicycle rider sporting dread locks and a mate gourd (yes, they are drinking mate–there is even a mate BEER! It’s awful though 😦 ). In Argentina, we throw things away and let the street people deal with it. This is truly sad.
A wide variety of everything.
Here we are arriving at a middle ground. I love variety. Sushi, seafood, spicy, mexican, and especially the beer and wine selection at the supermarket. The problem here is, especially when it comes to food, that we are overly clean (which is really just a form of efficiency and order). American’s artisan products–mirco-brews, small batch wines, mom and pop restaurants, etc– get swallowed up by the giants. There are plenty left, don’t get me wrong, but when it comes to cheese, for example, your options are chemically processed orange looking blocks of chemical that have no cheese funk to them whatsoever for 99 cents or some gorgeous French imports that have you salivating all the way home for 10 dollars per pound. No middle ground. Whole Foods sells their REGULAR boneless skinless chicken breast for 7 dollars per pound.
Cars, cars, cars. GOD AMERICANS LOVE CARS. I FUCKING HATE CARS! Excuse me, I don’t like to curse in my writing, but seriously, I fucking hate them. Fuck cars. Never has there been an invention that has divided humanity, polluted the earth, caused noise and waste, than the automobile. The car divides through physical space as well as economics: physically, instead of sharing space on the sidewalk, public transport, or the close contact of a bicycle, everyone has their own mini-house with wheels. They eat, talk on the phone, download music, do business and more from their cars. The walls of a car allow people to be as little as 2 meters from one another (at a stop light) and avoid basic greetings. When was the last time you said hi to someone at a stoplight?
The car is also “mine”. Instead of the concept of shared space, shared transportation, or the close contact of bicycles (no walls), people have their own mobile space. America, the richest country ever in the history of the world, surprisingly ranks only 16th in car ownership per capita (http://www.economist.com/daily/chartgallery/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12714391&fsrc=rss) but people always are battling to show of their rides. TV shows, drag racing, car racing and so forth dominate American culture.
Driving is a nuisance, annoying, infuriating, anywhere you go. The difference is that in most other developed countries (the 15 ahead of the U.S.), public transportation is a viable option whereas in the U.S. it is not.