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!)