Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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San Diego

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After my longish journey, I arrived in San Diego, where my brother picked me up at the airport. As it took him a few minutes to arrive, I thought I might call him first to see what's going on. That involved getting some change first, of course. So I bought a bag of M&Ms (sadly not of the almond kind that is supposedly available in the U.S.) and immediately ran into one of my pet-peeves with Americans: Everybody asks you how you're doing. As far as I understand, people are just trying to be nice and don't expect and answer – still it irritates me as I both tend to answer questions but also think that this is none of the business of someone I who's selling me a bag of sweets.

The other pet-peeve would be the fact that toilets are referred to as rest-rooms and I have even seen people in what resembled a state of shock when asking for directions to the 'toilet'. I just don't get that as personally I visit such locations to do my business there and don't go there to get some rest. – In addition, being so shy about the toilets doesn't fit in with my experience that toilets in the U.S. are among the largest, and cleanest I have seen. And, I might add, the fact that unlike the UK, in the U.S. there are plenty of one faucet taps that are capable of dispensing adequate amounts of hot and cold water. So much for this aside…

Once in San Diego, I got to see my brother's car (named Bratwurst, which is mainly old and has slightly broken suspension) and flat that he shares with another exchange student who also has a visitor these days. After relaxing a bit, we made a few plans for our upcoming journey and then went out for a burger and, later on, a drink. At that stage I started being quite tired – probably not surprising, considering that my internal clock must have shown something like 8 o'clock at the time.

The next day, we went a bit to the beach, watching my brother surf at La Jolla Shores, not too exciting because there weren't good waves and – I suspect – surfing is more fun to do than to watch. Later we did some walking up and down Pacific Beach, where it is allowed to consume and alcohol on the beach itself but forbidden to do the same thing right next to it on the sidewalk. Unfortunately, it was overcast that day so I couldn't indulge in the sun as I had hoped.

Afterwards we made a quick stop at the Apple Store in San Diego. It was my first opportunity to see an iPod mini for real. It's really quite small and pretty. We could play around with all the nice toys, which was nice. On the other hand, my brother said that staff in the store seemed OK but not overwhelmingly competent. I also finally picked up a new battery for my Powerbook there. The old one was completely hosed and would give more than twenty minutes of power any more. I hope the new one will last reasonably long and also am not too happy with the fact that this purchase was necessary at all. If batteries are known to die after two years or so (I keep hearing that many batteries do), this could be advertised from the beginning.

We departed from San Diego later that night, driving towards the north-west. Prior to departure we bought some water for us and oil for the car at a supermarket. In fact, I wasn't allowed to enter the supermarket because I was carrying my backpack. Paranoia olé.

Driving in the dark was a bit unpleasant at times for a few reasons: Firstly, the roads just aren't as visibly marked as I am used to, sometimes making it hard to see the direction of as much of the road in front of me as I'd like to. Secondly, headlights: Either people are just inconsiderate and rude, using the full beam all the time or there are no laws for how headlights need to be adjusted to ensure good visibility of the road without blinding traffic, both oncoming and in front of you. Thirdly, super size cars: There are really as many of them around as the critics suggest. And from them the headlight problem is even worse: The combination of headlights that are much higher than need be, poor adjustment and inconsiderate drivers makes them unfit for traffic.

Another thing I wasn't aware of before was that traffic signs in the U.S. seem different from traffic signs in all other countries. Not that they're particularly hard to understand – I just thought they're the same everywhere. Mainly they seem to contain much more text than usual traffic signs, like 'Speed Limit' on each speed limit sign – quite ironic, I guess, considering that the U.S. is often quoted as one of the prime first world players in illiteracy.

March 12, 2004, 23:02

Tagged as country:us, travel, USA.

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