Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pickles, refills and American weirdness

Away far away, in a land inhabitants deliberately call "Aus" (because it sounds like "Oz"), some wit has had the chutzpah to call America a weird place. And not for any political reason; no, if the unidentified Aussie had gone into political weirdness, I might or might not have agreed with him/her fully. No, let's see why this person thinks America is weirder than the Land Down Under:

1: Free Soft Drink Refills
How is it in America, you get a biggie drink and you suddenly realize you can refill it as much as you want? Why don't you just order a small drink and save money?

I'm tempted to give the writer this one. However, speaking from my QSR experience, most people leave with their drinks. Once you step out that door, refills ain't free, so tank up.

2: Tipping For Service
There's no tipping in Australia! The person gets paid to do their job. You just don't have waitresses that become salespeople to attain a big tip.

You mean they actually pay servers a living wage down there in Aus? Up here, many people — we call them "conservatives", though some call themselves "libertarians" — believe that anyone over 22 who ends up in a crappy job for any reason deserves to get crappy pay. Does that make it harder for you to climb up out of the gutter? Suck it up, buttercup; that's not your benevolent employers' problem. Other people, realizing that that rationale is a load of dingo's kidneys, eventually began to tip good service as a way to offset employers' stinginess. The employers found that the servers could make way more than minimum wage, so they got the right from the government to pay them 1/3rd less than other crappily-paid workers. Remember that the next time you come up here, and give your server a 20% tip ... and the management a piece of your mind.

3: Drug Ads
When the American television is on, there seems to be prescription drug ads all the time. Down under, the coc [sic] tells the patient which drug to take; they don't tell the doc.

American pharmaceutical companies target patients for the same reason McDonald's marketing targets children: so they can put pressure on the decisionmakers. (Fortunately, my PC is a lovely, headstrong Indian matron with no time for such nonsense, so I don't even bother asking.)

4: The Bread
Why is all the bread in America so sweet? Bread isn't supposed to have this much sugar.

De gustibus non est disputandum. Besides, have you tried Jewish rye? Or pumpernickel? And there are plenty of artisan breads you can get now without the sugar content of white bread.

5: Price Tags
Why don't those price tags have the tax included? The price might say $6 but you have to be prepared to actually pay $7.10. Why?!

In Australia, as in Canada, a Goods and Services Tax is imposed on individual items in every transaction of the production process; however, everyone except the final consumer gets a refund. In America, only the consumer pays the state and local sales tax, and it's levied on the entire transaction, so there's nothing to refund to vendors. Some products, like gasoline, do get taxed differently; certain items, like cigarettes and alcohol, will have extra "luxury" or "sin" taxes that are built into the purchase price; some items aren't taxed for different reasons. But sales tax is otherwise charged on the total purchase, not on individual items. Because taxes are charged fractionally, including the tax in the tag price could lead to rounding errors that translate into a higher total at the register. The difference may be pennies on the ten or hundred dollars, but it would still be an overcharge.

By the way, $7.10 on a $6 purchase is an 18.3% sales tax. Tell me where it was you stayed, so I can avoid it.

6: Flags
There are flags everywhere. Flags for this and flags for that. Why so many flags?

Because flags are a sign of identity and of pride, Sparky. They're symbols; they're messages; and they're rallying points. Especially "Old Glory". Besides, you Australians must think flags matter; otherwise, you wouldn't have an ongoing debate as to whether the British Union Jack should be part of your own.

7: Get To The Point
Going into a store to purchase something, the cashier seems to act as they have known you for years. Let's just get to the point, "How much do I owe?"

Are you an Australian, or are you really from New York City? Granted, I only met a handful of Aussies while I worked in QSRs, but they were all ready to engage in friendly banter at the drop of a "Hi!" In any event, I forgive you, because you must have rolled a string of sevens in your transactions; most of us who live here have had plenty of experience with disengaged, uncaring cashiers, and it suits some Americans just fine. (Quoth the late George Carlin: "Yeah, yeah, yeah ... could you give me my f**kin' change, please?")

8: Toilet Height
Why are the toilets so low in America? It feels like you are dropping into a mine shaft when you have to go to the bathroom.

Consider how a child, a paraplegic or a person with dwarfism might feel trying to climb onto a toilet raised to the height of an average chair. Then tell me how weird it is to sit on a low stool.

9: Public Toilet Privacy
Another toilet issue in America is the fact that there are so many gaps in public toilets. How can someone go in peace when people can see through the gaps and cracks?

Umm ... do you have a big peeping-Tom problem down there? Are your fellow Aussies so intrusive that they'll look through any gap so long as another person's on the other side of it? Or is it just you, my self-conscious friend? Let's face it: what people are most often doing in the toilet no one wants to watch. If anyone should want to watch what's going on, then odds are what's going on probably shouldn't be done in a public lavatory. Get a hotel room. Or get married and do it at home. In sum, the walls are as much for our benefit as they are for yours; they're there to screen you off, not provide a panic room or an isolation booth.

10: Pickles
Why is it that anytime you order something, they give you a pickle? Pickle with this and a pickle with that. What a useless side.

You must have lived in New York City. Where else can you have gone to so many delis (and paid an 18.3% sales tax)? That's the only explanation I can think of for your getting offered so many pickles. I've had plenty of pickle slices on my burgers, but that's as a condiment, not a side; I don't see many whole pickles even at a state fair. But you do find them wherever you can get a decent pastrami on rye with provolone, or ham and swiss on wheat. And many of us love the tangy crunch of a good kosher pickle.

I'll admit, America can be a very strange place, and has some very bizarre people for citizens (e.g., Joe Biden, Rand Paul, Miley Cyrus). Who else but an American would name three of his children "Dweezil", "Moon Unit", and "Diva"? (Then again, I don't know if Frank Zappa was truly weird or just an a$$hole.)

But these ten things our Australian friend listed aren't truly "weird". They may be "strange" in that Australia does some things differently, but they're not irrational. If you live here long enough, you'll be surprised that anyone else could find them weird.

Except for the crappy pay of servers.