The bloody heat! Jingsaleery, I can't understand why anyone from Scotland would voluntarily move to such a harsh, unforgiving environment as Arizona. This is the sort of country where leaving a glass of chocolate milk outside in the sun will end up boiling it sufficiently to serve for hot chocolate. I am quite confident that if I'm left alone in the desert from more than a day, I will dry up like a prune, leaving nothing behind but a wrinkly pile, partially burned where my glasses focused the sunlight into solar deathrays, my beard and hair having rolled up and transformed into a tumbleweed. A tumblebeard, if you will. Truly a future not worth considering.
Thank goodness for air conditioning. This technology is nothing short of a godsend. I don't understand why it isn't widespread over in the UK, it's ingenious. Granted, I have to put up with constant rhetorical questions about how the pioneers could survive without air conditioning (I guess they, you know, figured out a way to survive without air conditioning, unlike modern soft civilized folk like myself), but it's worth it just to be cool. I'm a bit of a boreal creature: cold doesn't bother me, in fact I staunchly prefer it. I take ice in my drinks even in winter, I put my juice in the fridge, and I don't wrap up in chilly weather. Heat is my kryptonite, can't stand being too warm. It's like being smothered with cotton wool made of steam. What's more, my clothing habits are so entrenched that I always wear two layers - always - which usually means at least a vest and an open shirt, but never anything in between. Long sleeves are common, too. Combine this with the insulating beard and long hair, you can see the problem. So anything that makes me cool makes me eternally grateful.
Just a shame you can't drink the water straight from the tap without gagging. Good grief, I know we're blessed in Scotland with sparkling clear springs that taste like the sweet tears of the Highlands, but how in blazes do Americans live without beign able to just put the tap on and drink? They have to have their own bottles of drinking water put in the fridge - insanity!
It's all good though, since drinking water is very inexpensive over here. In fact, everything's inexpensive over here. Prices are fantastic. I went into a Starbucks, and I was astounded to see that the coffee was no less than a third of what you'd pay over in Scotland. A third! And it isn't just drinks, everything's cheaper. I could've bought an entire other suitcase to buy all the value-for-money goodies! Infuriatingly the region coding means I can't take DVD or games, and the crazy electrical sockets means I can't bring over other electronic devices, but hey, dinosaurs! I got dinosaurs for a steal: a Camarasaurus, Giganotosaurus, Cetiosaurus, Dilophosaurus and Scutosaurus for only 60 bucks! 60! I'd be lucky to get two of those for that equivalent price over in Scotland. Now I now how the Poles feel coming to a land of plenty.
I think I'd enjoy their goods a lot more if their currency wasn't so useless. In Scotland, each coin is fairly distinctive: tiny copper penny, big copper two pence, tiny silver five pence, medium silver ten pence, small hexagonal silver twenty pence, big pentagonal silver fifty pence, heavy gold one pound, even heavier silver/gold two pounds. It's fairly easy to discern from the bronze-silver-gold dynamic, and using size to split different groups within that scale. You won't accidentally give someone a fifty pence when you meant to give them a penny. In America, I have to squint damn hard to see the difference between a nickel and a quarter: for a difference of 20 cents, they're infuriatingly similar to each other. I can't think it's only foreigners who have this problem.
So too are the notes: one pound is forest green, five pounsd is blue, ten pounds is brown, twenty pounds is burgundy, and so on, and the notes are even a different size from each other. It's a veritable rainbow. In America, however, all money is not only the same size, but the same damn colour, meaning you have to look very carefully to see whether you're giving someone a 1 dollar bill or a 100 dollar bill. It drives me mad. MAD. MAAAAAA
Luckily, the people in America - at least the ones I've met - are very friendly and eager to help should you get into difficulties. The girl at Starbucks was so helpful I practically fell in love with her, and that's not just because she said she loved my accent. Perhaps she thought I had significant mental health issues and was treating me accordingly, or perhaps she was just nice: I know not, I care not, for she made a homesick Scot's life a little bit easier. Plus it helped she called me "buddy" every day. That said, even the people who are clearly having a long day were nice, like the Blimpy girl (the name of the restraunt chain, not a comment on her appearance, especially considering she was a slip of a lass). She had clearly been working from dawn, but she kept smiling and showed remarkable patience to the three Scottish ladies who can barely figure out a Subway back home at Scotland, let alone this Blimpy place.
Of course, even their friendliness can't help you when you do or say something that's a mark of respect in Scotland, but the height of rudeness or lack of class over here. Take meals, for instance: in Scotland, cleaning your plate is good manners. It shows that you enjoyed your host's food so much that you ate it all up, and it also shows that you're grateful not to be a little starving African. Leaving an unfinished meal is apparently symbolic of your displeasure at the host's cooking skills, and that unless you cannot possibly eat more, you should make an attempt to finish it - to the point that you'd even encourage someone else to help you finish. Not so in Red, White and Bluetopia: leaving no food on your plate is apparently taken as a gesture that your host is ungenerous, and didn't give you a big enough portion: leaving some food behind is some subtle cue that your host did indeed provide plenty of food.
It's things like this that make me appreciate Star Trek, where alien cultures with their own mores and beliefs highlight how arbitrary and silly our own customs are. But then, what do you do when you just eat... however much or little you want to eat? I mean ferchrissakes, how did we get past the stone age when so much depended on how much or little someone's supposed to eat? No wonder there are so many wars when the way someone eats is considered alternately offensive or honourable. Seuss was right in his seminal treatise The Butter Battle Book.
And speaking of meals, of all the things that you could sell at a place called Dairy Queen, why would you not sell milk? At a place called DAIRY. QUEEN. THEY DO NOT SELL MILK AT DAIRY QUEEN. What.
But these are complaints of civilization: how can you stay mad at a place that has such vast, magnificent, and - to a Scot, at least - practically alien landscapes? My first night, I went to sleep not hearing the howls of foxes, the cries of owls, or the shrieks of whatever the hell that bird is that keeps screaming at 3:00 in the morning: I heard strange, foreign, unusual cries. Birds, but like none I heard in Scotland; insects blissfully unlike the dreaded midges or the fiendish cleg; mammals which I'm sure are very different from local critters. I awake and look outside to see not the freakishly gigantic local breed of herring gull, nor the battle-scarred pigeons, nor any foxes or rabbits. Instead, I see creatures as unknown to me as if it were another planet: bizarre, stout little birds with preposterous quiffs, often trailing a train of chicks like an avian wagon train; dwarf rabbit-like creatures no larger than guinea pigs; wee lizards I can't quite identify, mostly because they're so small I can't get a good look at them, and because lizards aren't exactly commonplace in Scotland. Even the insects are curious in shape and sound. It's fantastic just looking out the window or sitting on the patio, watching the strange wildlife pass by.
Oh, wait, I forgot the number one thing I cannot stand - sales tax. BLASTED CONFOUNDED FIENDISH SALES TAX. Right, in Scotland, we have the value added tax all sorted out before you get in the shop. They check the price, it's stuck on a sticker, sticker's stuck on the item. Customer comes into the shop, picks it up, sees the price, gets his money out, pays for it, out again. Sorted.
Apparently, this system is foreign for Americans: no, they apply the sales tax only when you get to the blasted till, so unless you precisely calculate how much tax you'll have to pay in addition to what's on the price sticker, you don't know how much you're going to have to pay. What, exactly, is stopping retailers from printing out stickers that have the sales tax already calculated so that the customer isn't fiddling about with change, or unexpectedly realise they didn't account for sales tax when they went out for their groceries? Am I insane for thinking this? I mean, the one thing I want to be constant is to look at the price of a product, and pay that price for the product without having to think about advanced calculus, how the precentage varies based on the product in question, and WHY IS BUYING A BOTTLE OF SNAPPLE SO DIFFICULT IN THIS LOGICFORSAKEN COUNTRY BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH
Well, ultimately, I'm having a great time in America. The good outweighs the bad. Except the sales tax, because TAE PUTNEY WI' SALES TAX.