So, in no particular order, here are six whimsical things I'm thankful for in the USA. My guess is that most Americans don't even think about them since they're part of everyday life, but to a transplant, they make life so much easier.
1. Being able to turn right at a red light. Genius. I mean, really, why isn’t this available all over the world? OK, I take that back – I’ve seen how the Italians drive and whether it’s legal or not, they do it anyway. I love this on many levels. It makes perfect sense for people to carefully look and consider whether they can turn, saving time, and not blocking other traffic. The only issue is that you have to be careful when you travel because it isn’t legal in some states. But, where it is, 'thank you' whoever came up with this brilliant idea.
2. Mailing letters from your own mailbox. I’ll admit that when I first came to the US, not being able to have mail delivered through a letterbox in the door was a little sad. In the UK we are so used to the familiar thunk of envelopes hitting the doormat when the postman comes that you kind of miss it. Then I realized just how wonderful the concept of the mailbox is when I saw the little flag you can put up. I mean, another genius moment. You don’t have to find a mailbox or go to the post office. Just put the letters in the mailbox, raise your little flag and the good old mailman does double duty and takes it for you. Honestly, in the UK, if you asked postmen to do that, I swear they would all go on strike. So, three cheers for the US Postal Service – as long as it’s still in existence……
3. Zip codes and area codes. I’ve put these two together because of the wonderful logic and consistency they both share. In a country of 300 million people living in areas ranging from massively populated Manhattan to the wilds of Alaska, everyone has a 5-digit zip code (with a plus 4) and a 10-digit phone number. Simple and easy. Yes, I know that area codes keep changing as more are added but the concept stays the same. So for any address, you have literally 2 lines:
1234 Somewhere Street
Anytown, CA 54321
Compare that to my old home address in the UK: a country of only 55 million people where addresses can fill an entire envelope in their specificity yet are no more accurate than in the US:
Phew! Not only is there no house number, since on our street all the houses had names, but you put the name of the town (Cleveleys) together with its small northern neighbor (Thornton) because the two towns are so small. Then you have to add the second town (Blackpool) to point out that yes, this is a small place so we need to give you an idea of the nearest bigger town so you don’t get confused with any other Thornton-Cleveleys (right.) Then we have the county (Lancashire) and then the post code: a weird mixture of letters and numbers. Got all that? No wonder Americans laugh at our addresses, they really are a mouthful. It's a good thing I wasn't living in a cupboard under the stairs.
Then there are phone numbers. Instead of everyone having a standard 7-digit number plus the 3-digit area code, British telephone numbers have evolved in much the same way that a woman who’s had too many plastic surgeries evolves – one too many and it all looks like a mess. So our old family number telephone number many decades ago was 3703. As things grew, it became 853703. And then you needed to add England’s version of the area code which was 0253, which then became 01253. So the final number was 01253 853703. I know…… crazy. So, here’s a high five to the US’s 5-digit zip code and 10-digit telephone numbers.
4. Washing machines and dryers. I don’t know what it is about laundry that is so much easier in the US than it is in the UK, but it is. Very efficient, very easy, very quick and very effective. When my brother visits from England, I throw in a couple of large loads of laundry and it’s all done in a couple of hours. When I go to visit him, I need to plan the laundry situation in advance because the washer is a) tiny, b) takes forever and c) there’s no dryer. I’ll pat my washer and dryer in thanks – they work hard for the money.
5. The weather. Yes, I live in Laguna Beach so I have almost perfect weather almost all of the time, but that’s not it. The point is predictability. There’s something about living in the US that you kind of know what the weather is going to be like in any given month – wherever you live. There are hurricanes, tornadoes, massive storms and floods, and droughts, unfortunately more now than ever before (that's another story entirely) but, more or less you know what’s going to happen and when. That is so not the case in the UK. I guess the only thing you can predict is that it will rain – sporadically, or all day – but it will rain. That’s why whenever the sun is out, things literally grind to a halt in Britain. That round yellow ball in the sky isn’t seen very often so you need to get out there, roll up your sleeves and get some sun! Kudos to US citizens for being more pragmatic about the weather.
6. Grocery store baggers. Yes, it’s a luxury, and yes, I am absolutely capable of bagging my own groceries, but it’s lovely having someone else do that, and you really get used to it. I was in a grocery store in England with my brother this year and completely forgot about the fact that no one was going to put the food in bags except us. As I stood around like a lemon, my brother grabbed bags muttering sarcastically about entitlement. Oops. Chalk another one up for the US.
So there you have it. Six completely random reasons to love the US. Things that natives would probably never even think of but to this Brit are worth their weight in gold.
Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving to all.