That’s Why They Call It The American Dream,
Because You Have To Be Asleep To Believe It.
First-time visitors to America are often shocked by the sheer girth of so many of the locals. That’s probably because Americans themselves are obsessed with the subject. I just read in an article that fully one-third of America’s population is overweight and there is no end in sight. Far be it for me, an overweight, repatriated Canadian, to add fuel to the fire– I could stand to lose more than a few pounds myself.
My fascination with America and Americans has more to do with the quirky idiosyncrasies that seem so particular to this country. For starters, Lori and I arrived four weeks ago to begin our second stint in the kitchens of Camp Moshava and we were practically greeted on our arrival by the Pennsylvania branch of the FBI to fingerprint us – not just us personally, but the entire camp staff. I’m not sure who tipped off the authorities, but I’m pretty certain we paid all our outstanding parking tickets before we left home. I guess you can’t be too careful these days about who you invite into your state to prepare green salads, let alone Mac & Cheese.
After we landed at Newark Airport we drove to Passaic, NJ to grab a bit of breakfast on the way to camp. Nothing out of the ordinary, until I ordered a small coffee to go. I was summarily informed by the proprietor of the bagel eatery that the smallest size they serve is a medium. Just like that, Americans have removed small from their lexicon – medium is now the new small. Americans are really averse to labeling anything small, lest they feel they are being shortchanged. It’s a big country with big dreams, and even bigger portions. At camp the biggest sin that can occur in the kitchen is running out of a dish, any dish – even if it is something that campers don’t like, just make sure there are plenty of leftovers.
Big and cheap is what sells over here – Costco, Walmart, Dollar Stores – outside of Manhattan, is there anywhere in this country that people still buy retail? It’s not that I’m complaining but it is so easy to get caught up in the frenzy. We needed Q-Tips for our summer stay so how could we pass up on the special family size package of 1000? There are bottles of mouthwash to be had that are larger than our medicine cabinet back home – there really is no excuse for anybody in this country to walk around with bad breath.
Americans, at least the ones I keep running into in rural Pennsylvania, are a friendly bunch. They are sincere when they greet you on the street, and are happy to engage in conversation while waiting patiently in line at the cashier in Walmart. No pushing, no shoving, and certainly no yelling at the sales staff – no wonder Americans can’t get a grip on the whole Middle East thing.
Americans, however, do understand America. Judging by the amount of fireworks stores operating in the Pocono Mountains, Americans take the 4th of July very seriously. From what I’ve observed, most Americans are proud to be Americans. As the father of five sons who have all completed their mandatory army service, I am amazed by the numbers of American youth who voluntarily enlist in the US Armed Services – for whatever their personal reasons – many of them going off to fight and serve in hotspots half-way across the globe with names they can hardly pronounce in order to defend the values that so many of us take for granted. One might not agree with all of America’s foreign policy decisions, but it is hard not to admire its tenacity.
Freedom, security, and discount outlet malls are the perks of our western, democratic way of life. Personally, I get a big kick out of watching Americans be Americans; next trip, however, I’ll have to remember to pack a few small size coffee cups…