LATELY — 31 January 2003

North America

America’s often strange in ways that are quite inexplicable. I’m quite prepared to accept different candy, cereal, fast food outlets, and so forth. But America also possesses, for example, large numbers of intersections with stop signs going all four ways. Australia never has four-way stops. Intersections without traffic lights either: (1) come with a roundabout; or (2) one road (the bigger one) is designated the through road whilst the other has to “yield” or “give way.” Why would a country not want a system like this?

I’m also working on a theory that countries like Australia are often quite anti-American because the blend of “American” that Australia gets is often purer, more potent, and more virulent than that of America itself. Australia gets McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC, but we don’t get any of the weaker also-rans: Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, Arby’s and so forth. We have 7-Elevens, as the US does, but we seem to have many more of them. (A few years ago a friend and I walked around downtown taking photos of all the 7-Elevens we could find. I photographed ten or so in a couple of hours, and could’ve shot more.) By contrast US cities seems to have many more independent corner stores than we do (although I should say I’ve only been to Boston, NY, Washington and SF).

Another data point: does Manhattan really have more Barnes & Nobles than McDonald’ses? (Yes, I know, you punctuate it then.) It almost seems that way.

Still amusing me: Vancouver’s SkyTrains have no drivers! (This is not quite as dangerous as it sounds because there’s only one line (tracks never cross) and the tracks are raised above the ground–so it’s basically a sort of horizontal elevator. Still!)