Archive for April, 2008

Three little words…

Punk. Rock. Karoake.

Oh yes, this actually exists. I have not yet participated, but it is only a matter of time. And the fact that it does exist encompasses the essence of what I love about really big cities. When the number of inhabitants reaches a certain point, beautiful social anomalies start to appear, catering to niches so odd that only in densely populated areas could they possibly have the chance to flourish.

In London my favourite example of this was Bröderna Olsson, the swedish gothic metal pub that only served food containing garlic. Another classic was the Absolut Ice bar, where you could only go for 45 minutes, they kept the temperature at minus 5 celsius because everything was made of ice, and served only cocktails made from vodka in hollowed ice shot glasses.

So what have I learned since I got here? Well, americans are distinctly against centrally lit rooms, and most apartments no longer contain a light fixture, necessitating the purchase of multiple lamps. However they still have light-switches, which control the upper socket of an arbitrarily selected power outlet. As far as I can tell these can be found only through the process of trial and error, initially I found them somewhat perplexing.

For every financial transaction that takes place in the states, someone is waiting in the wings to leech off it. To get an apartment you pay a massive brokerage fee ($3k is not abnormal), to withdraw money from an atm not owned by your own bank is $3, and to transfer money to another person’s bank account is almost $19.

If you ask an american how much their government taxes earnings, the answer will seem very low. This is because they are talking about federal tax , and have neglected to mention state tax, local tax, social security tax, porcupine tax, and pretty much any other kind of tax you can imagine.

Every major department store has its own credit card, and every time you purchase something you will be asked to sign up for it. You will be asked for a postal address in shops with alarming frequency, and as a routine part of selling you something. This also goes for your phone number and email address. Actually giving these out will result in varying quantities of junk mail.

These and many other lessons have been gradually accumulating. In other news, I have decided to get a driving license. This should be interesting.

Idiocy is also rampant in the states. But they are just so much politer then the English it’s hard to resent them for it.

An excerpt from my conversation with Time Warner cable today:

General admin stuff……

Me: So I would like to switch the cable and internet over to my name

Cable Guy: this account only has high-speed internet

*mentally envisions the cable splitter supplying the tv with cable in my flat*

Me: oookaaay, forget cable. Just internet. Ahem.

CG: So you just need to bring the form in to change over, with proof or residence

Me: and how much will the internet cost?

CG We have a special package for $119 a month which gives you high-speed internet, 300 cable channels, and unlimited calling to anywhere in the states

Me: I don’t watch tv and I have no friends, just the internet please. How much was Mary paying?

CG: $44.99

Me: So is it the same charge?

CG: well, there is an offer on for $39.99

Me: so I could get that?

CG: Yeah

Me: Ok, and how much would a basic cable package be?

CG: $44.99, but you could get both together in a package for $101 per month

*Re-checks mental arithmetic in case of malfunction. clean*

Me: so it costs more to get the package? Seriously?

CG: What?

*Talk cable guy through the complex mathematics involved*

Me: and so you see, it actually costs 16 extra bucks per month to get your package than to get the two separate items.

CG: Gee, I guess you’re right

…… and so on