A letter to America

After returning today from my second trip to the US, I feel that after seven weeks and more than ten thousand kilometres [kilometers] of driving across eighteen different states – that’s about six thousand miles – I could be regarded as something of an expert. Perhaps a few observations are in order:

1. Measurement. Seriously, get over your obsession with the past and move to the metric system. Using the metric system will also allow you to stop using fractions on road signs. Another benefit is that if you sell fuel (aka gas – really?) by the litre [liter] rather than the gallon, it will seem much cheaper.

2. Petrol. I know you think your gas prices are expensive, but I was able to drive 4,630km on $265 worth of petrol. Less than 6c a km is very good value for a mid-size car.

3. Food. Your processed food has way too much sugar and fat. You know this. So cut it out. However, food service by very dedicated and attentive staff is a great witness to the general politeness and good manners that most of your citizens embody. Congratulations.

4. Drivers. Your roads vary greatly in quality, but your drivers were much more aware of others around them, mostly well-behaved and more courteous than most Australian drivers. Congratulations.

5. Toilets. These are way too low to the ground, to the point that getting down to them for a tall person is problematic. Is America really full of people who are short and fat? Oh, wait…

6. Church. Once again I was deeply impressed by the devotion and spiritual openness of so many people that I met along my way. I find the religious conservatism odd and the insistence on calling priests “Fr Surname” strange, when my baptismal name is surely my deepest identity and we call both the holy father and bishop by their first name in the highest place of prayer – the Eucharistic prayer.

7. Beauty. You live in a beautiful and diverse country. Yet, you still insist on building horrible tourist structures so close to places of stunning beauty. Really?

8. Taxes. If the prices of petrol, movie tickets, entrance fees and more are able to be calculated with all taxes included, why can’t all other taxes be included in the prices displayed in every other store?

Until we meet again…


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