Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Land of the free

So here I am back in the US of, renewing my acquaintance with non-dairy creamer. Apart from the non-dairy creamer I've been surprised by how easy America is to like. It's only my second visit. Last summer I went to San Francisco and Los Angeles, but this time I'm in the Mid-West, specifically Chicago and then Kalamazoo. In California I was struck by how hotel staff and waiters seemed to find it a really interesting challenge to help people, in the same way that if a reader asks me about an Anglo-Saxon manuscript in the Parker I enjoy answering their questions as best I can, or setting them on the right track. In San Francisco I asked for advice about shops that opened early so I could get breakfast and some lunch to take on a full-day whale-watching trip, and without even asking the hotel owner arranged for me to have a wake-up call, early breakfast and packed lunch, for no extra charge.

I've only been in the Mid-West for a short time but the service seems a bit less exuberant here, though there's still an urge to please which leads to some odd exchanges. I got the passcode for the wifi service over the phone, and when I'd written it all down I asked the man if any of the letters should be capitals, and he said I could capitalise them all if I wanted. Which is liberty for you, I suppose -- too many choices.

Also I like the way that here in Chicago people seem to have a sense of personal space at least equal to mine, and politeness about door opening and passing in narrow spaces at a full cripplingly-English level. When I speak they react to my accent with a mixture of affection and pity, which I love, because in my day-to-day interactions a mixture of affection and pity is exactly what I'm aiming for. Hurray for Chicago! If only it weren't so humid...

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