So I got lost on the way to the Lehigh Valley Mall... Gahh! My life is officially boring. It may be time for someone to mercy 12 gauge me.
Alright then, I'll tell you what I've noticed about this insipidly dull country since I've been back. Toilets; they have too much water in them. Seriously, midgets can have a pool party in there. Why all the volume? It's not necessary, splashback is a real danger, and it's gross. I guess I got used to the European design, if not the middle eastern one. Just enough water not to cause a scandal, and not be wasteful. It has it's drawbacks, I suppose, but it wouldn't be polite to go into too much detail, and anyway after a while you get used to them and it's hardly noticable.
Another thing is cell phones; there is so much wrong with that set-up I get a nose bleed every time I dwell on it for too long. Your minutes get used up whether you are making the call or receiving it! Are you freaking kidding me?! That's double billing! That is the single hugest most obnoxious scam that phone companies have pulled yet, and America is eating it up! No other cell companies in the world do that, to my knowledge. Certainly not in the places I've been to, anyway. Another thing that Cingular did to me: When I signed up for my plan, I asked for International calling and was told that normally they don't allow you to do that for 90 days. Don't allow me? What is this, Kiddie Toy Phones R Us? Give me my f%$^&@# International calling, buttmunch! Sir, call this number and explain your situation and they can maybe turn it on. So okay I called the number and was told (after a suicide-inducing automated directory system, but I'll leave that aspect of American life (and it is an aspect of American life as I bet the average person spends on average a half a day per week navigating those bleepity bleep things, a substantial portion of life, if you ask me) alone as I believe that you are all very aware of that outrage) that if I faxed a copy of my driver's licence and a utility bill in my name, that I'd be good to go. I explained that I just returned to the US a few days ago after ten years of living abroad, and that I hadn't had a utility bill in my name since '96. I offered to send them a copy of my bank statement to prove that I could pay my bill, and they refused! They kept saying no, we need a utility bill, and I kept saying that that was not possible, but I have plenty of money and I can prove it to you, jerkoff, so help me out here. Nope.
There are so many things wrong with that that I barely know where to start. It's just stupid. I'm practically begging to give them my money, and they won't take it because of a bureaucratic nitpicky policy and they are so narrowly focused that they can't make an exception in a case that categorically merits it. No matter how much reason, proof, yelling, or begging I offered, or speaking to managers that I did, they would not allow me to get International calling, no way around it. Again, what the hell is Cingular, my babysitter? "We're concerned you won't be able to pay your bill, so rather than letting you try to prove that you can, we're just not going to let you have a basic service that most adults in today's world are qualified to have. No cookie! Bad consumer!" Ow see! My nose is bleeding all over... my... computer ink... Ok that's stupid. Sorry.
And now I'm getting a little bit more philosophical, but having brought up the oft-maligned "C" word, I want to add my half-penny to the subject of Consumerism. I am a consumer, for sure. That had always struck me as a stupid label for people to get all riled up about because I'm sorry, but everybody in the world, from the Dalai Lama down to Joe Bacteria is a consumer. Of course when it's complained about, it usually refers to much more voracious consumerism than eating and drinking and clothing yourself and whatnot. Which, after not really having been here for so long, is really visible to me right now. Voracious consumerism, I mean. Yesterday when I finally found the Lehigh Valley Mall, which I hate but my brother got a gift card for some store there for Christmas so I took him, (and the gift card thing? Good God it's out of control!) I saw a little kiosk named "Bears in Chairs" and they were selling, holy crap, little stuffed bears sitting on little wood chairs. Lots of different shapes and sizes and whatnot. Everytime I see something like that, I'm that much closer to checking myself out. And shopping centers, my God! They're everywhere! I hate shopping centers, malls, all that, but you have to go to them all the time every time you go out because that's all there is! I guess what I'm saying is that I really don't blame Americans on a personal level for being voracious consumers, because America itself is set up so that most people don't have any other choice. America isn't so much a nation, or a place of Freedom and Democracy, as it is a huge consumer machine. This probably would sound extreme to most people, if they even understood what that meant, but believe me, after everything I've seen, I've never seen a system as strange and warped as my own home country. I mean, I've been here about ten days now, and I've already realized that if I want to do anything in this country, I have to establish credit, get a utility bill, and eat greasy food, regardless of all the other fine qualities I have going for me. There's almost no way around it. And then, once you ante up and get the stuff you need so that you can get done the things that you need to get done, you wind up having very little choice in where you go or what you do. Do I go to Friendly's or Applebee's? Do I shop at Sears, Big Lot, or Wal-Mart? What DVD are we watching tonight? By very little choice, I don't mean that you don't have a zillion sub-categories to choose from. I was in a Barnes & Noble the other day, and my head nearly exploded. I saw so many books that I wanted to read that I couldn't buy a single one of them and I had to run outside in abject terror. There is so much choice that you could spend all day deciding what book to buy, what breakfast cereal you like, which car defines you as a person, (not to get too Fight Club, but.) where to eat, what to watch, what porn website you like the best, etc etc and suddenly you are absorbed in these things so completely that that is what your life is about. What I was trying to get at was that the only decisions you wind up making are what to buy and where to keep your stuff, which is not a life. But it's seductive... I'm not above it. I bought a car, and I really want my own apartment so I can put my stuff in it and get an awesome home theatre set up. But you know what that means for me? It means that if I ever want to really travel again, I am trapped by that. Sure, I can go to Jamaica for a week or wherever, but it can never be the way it was, unless I check out completely. Sell everything, or throw or give it all away, and run like the wind, Forrest! Most people don't know what else life has to offer, and/or they have families and can't sell them, (ah! For the days of white slavery!) and so are stuck where they are, living the only life America has to offer.
I am a hypocrite. I am aware of this. I'm currently going through the process of buying in. I only hope that one day I will be able to check out, but if I can't, at least I've had the last ten years of actual freedom in my life. That's better than most.