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Au Revoir Americas

September 23rd, 2007 by Raj

Today marks my final day in the lands of Northern America. It’s been an interesting experience to say the least and one that I’ve quite enjoyed for the majority. How do you spend your last few hours here? By sitting in a Laundromat doing washing, hung over as fuck looking like a tool using their laptop whilst wearing sunglasses indoors surrounded by middle aged women doing load upon load of washing and a crazy little Chinese man that’s looking after the place sweeping around everyone’s feet whilst whistling Elvis tunes.

Laundromat

So far for the entirety of this journey I have done my washing three times, nothing particular miraculous about that you’d say, which I too would have to agree with, but the odd linking factor between all three moments is my rather lack lustre condition whilst performing domestic duties. Why I feel the need to get completely wasted and then do laundry hung over is beyond me, perhaps it’s subconsciously a way of not wasting a day? I mean what else are you going to do hung over, lay around in bed all day? I can’t do that today anyway because I’ve checked out for my flight later this evening, so why not be somewhat productive and do something I normally wouldn’t be arsed to do whilst on holidays.

Beyond laundry and the numerous jager shots that have produced today’s physical state I thought I’d take this opportunity to offer a few travel tips for any Australian making their way over to this way…. so let’s get into it

They drive on the other side of the road
Now this might seem like a rather obvious one to most people but regardless of the fact that you know they drive on the other side of the road it’s another thing to deal with that fact. Haven’t spent the last 27 years looking “right, then left, then right again” before crossing the street is a hard habit to break! Making use of the lights just makes you look like a dweeb; I can’t think of one instance where people actually waited for them to change to the green man (actually he’s normally white here).

When the red man gets to zero you’d better not be on the road!
Further elaborating on traffic law a lot of the intersections in both Canada and the US have a countdown clock when the red man appears. The clock tells you how many seconds you’ve got left until the traffic is going to start running you over should you find yourself in the middle of the road still. Think of it as your own personal death clock, be prepared for a deafening roar of horns and shouts if you’re caught out.

Light switches are upside down
This one really pissed me off to no extent. First day when I arrived in San Francisco I was trying to turn on the lights to my rather dark hotel room and I was not having any success whatsoever. At first I thought perhaps it was one of those fancy rooms where you have to put your room keycard into a slot to make the power work or something. Turns out, after ten minutes of fumbling around in the darkness I just had to flick the stupid bloody light switch the other way! Who the fuck does that, I mean seriously up does NOT equal ON people!

Americans are loud, Canadians not so much
I mumble, well actually, no… I prefer to think of my speech as “softly spoken”. At almost every encounter where verbal communication was required in one form or another I had to repeat myself four or five times. It’s not that my accent was thick or incomprehensible it’s just that everyone speaks so loudly and in the process have inherently all become deaf as door knobs. It wasn’t quite as bad in Canada, I think their relationship to Australia through British heritage may have genetically helped all parities involved with the repeating factor reduced from four to maybe twice per sentence. One piece of advice when you’re walking down a street (in the US in particular) don’t freak out when you hear people shouting at each other, it’s more thank likely they’re just having a conversation about their golf score it just sounds like someone’s about to get a “cap popped in their ass!”

Tipping’s a bitch but Sales Tax is the devil’s scrotum
I get the tipping thing, both countries do it because people are paid peanuts, 10-15% depending on the situation, blah, blah. It’s actually easier to tipping in the US I found because it feels like you’re giving people more when you hand them a note rather than a coin even if they’re both only worth a dollar. The thing that got on my goat a hell of a lot more than tipping was sales tax, or any of the other four hundred taxes they have over this way. It changes from state to state for starters, could be 5% in California, then 14% for the same item in New York (I’m making these percentages up, can’t remember what they are). Now I could even deal with that one, IF they included the tax in the price of the item on the shelf!!!! I absolutely HATE walking up to the counter, correct change in hand and then beep, beep, beep oh it’s an extra $3.45! Fuck that shit! So now I look like a complete wanker fishing around trying to figure out what these coins are worth in my pocket and give up by just giving them a note leaving me with more stupid coins that are completely foreign and I’m too lazy to interpret into their correct denominations! Get your act together peoples.

And now for the all important final thoughts….

America
Land of the free, the great American dream… where coke comes in gallons instead of small, medium and large. I really liked America, San Francisco was pleasant, nice city and all but nothing in comparison to New York. I suppose if I was looking at it from a work opportunity point of view I’d have to choose San Fran with its whole centre hub for all things interweb and so on. That said the Internet exists to let you work from anywhere so why not live in New York and work for a company in India? Maybe not. The USA was a surprise to me as to how much I actually enjoyed exploring it, New York in particular. In both locations I could have done with more time but I think that merely adds the allure as there will always be an attraction for me to go back and visit the two cities again.

Canada
Toronto rocked. A week ago I was all set to pack my bags and illegally work for cash in NYC but now I’m all set to ride the Queen’s coat tails and get my working visa for the Maple Leaf. Toronto was very similar to Melbourne, get atmosphere, great people and great night life. I made new friends at the drop of a hat and can’t get over just how amazing the people are here. Winter is the only red flag against this place or anywhere north of the mid US really but having a white Christmas and experiencing a Winter season where there’s real snow on the street instead of four hours away up a mountain is something I think I should live through… once.

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