On December 16th I said a prepared goodbye to Europe and the ten years I had spent in its embrace. Sleet poured down, icy winds chafed my face, winter hives breaking out on my arms and legs — I was more than ready to go.
So far the hardest thing has been adjusting to the time change. Europe is seven hours ahead of me — by the time I wake up they are already well on their day. My Twitter stream is not the same without my European friends. My mother is now 11 hours ahead of me, rather than the 4 we had in Europe, which makes it hard to connect at a time that works for both of us.
However, the weather in Florida is amazing, winter temperatures here are the summer highs in Europe. The wind is warm and balmy, five minutes in the sun and I have the workings of a tan, I’m reconstituting into a new life back in the US of A.
But, the bright side has a dark side.
I have the sensation that I am missing important things. I feel America is not only behind in terms of time zones. There is something fundamentally backwards going on here.
I’m struck by the sheer size of things and especially the roads. Why is everything so far from everything else?
The grocery store overwhelms me with hundreds of options for the same thing. Who needs 50 different kinds of shampoos?
Buses run once an hour and I keep listening for the sounds of tram bells that never come. Why is there no decent public transportation in every single American city?
The ads on TV are baffling — pharmaceuticals with side of effects ranging from depression to suicidal thoughts. What could be so bad that you would risk a plethora of side effects that are far worse than the original ailment?
The government issued a proclamation that pizza sauce constitutes a serving of vegetables.
Election season approaches and the candidates are more like clowns than people to take seriously, let alone put in charge of decisions over citizens’ lives. How can a man who has been married three times extoll family values? How can a woman who can barely make a coherent sentence or answer a question be a front-runner for the US presidency?
In a TV interview, Michelle Bachman said that congress should make laws, not the Supreme Court. She doesn’t seem to understand that the Supreme Court is one of the pillars of our “democratic” society.
Newt Gingrich tried to take credit for balancing the budget during the Clinton Administration, to which President Clinton responded, “Not really.”
The Republican Party is like a species from the Twilight Zone, I don’t know how they settled here on Earth, but I suspect they have come to destroy the human race.
A local news station discussed the Penn State rape scandal: The participants sided with the man who chose not to call the police when he saw his boss sodomizing a little boy in locker room showers. It must be so horrible to see something like that, they said. It makes perfect sense that he would not know what to do! He must have been very traumatized! That man was his hero! He needed time to deal with the shock! No mention of the little boy, his trauma, his shock. No. Mention. I feel sick thinking about it.
Americans are aghast when I tell them I don’t know how to drive. In Europe, it’s normal not to drive.
Americans can’t comprehend the zero tolerance policies that most European countries have with regards to drinking and driving. In Europe there’s public transport and easy access on foot; people don’t need to drink and drive, hence the zero tolerance.
American women get 12 weeks of maternity leave. In Europe you get years of maternity leave, if you so choose.
You need insurance to go the emergency room in the USA. In Europe it’s free for everybody, even if you aren’t a citizen or resident.
Many of these things are basic services, basic human rights even, and they are not a given in America, the so-called land of the free.
Maybe I’m the one in the Twilight Zone, a visitor from the future who must now find a way to integrate or break down these walls. Here’s hoping it’ll be the latter.
Have you ever found yourself behind the times?
©2011 Sezin Koehler, Image ©paintmeblue