I am very happy as an English woman living in America, and there are many things that are truly wonderful about this country (clue: but the loos aint one of them). When I moved here, having been brought up on a diet of American films and television shows, I presumed that everything in America was bigger, better, and glossier.
It’s true, some things are. New York, for example, remains one of the most vibrant cities in the world. The service industry here is truly an industry, and people leap to help (which is still something of a pleasure, seventeen years on). Hamburgers and pizza are excellent, as are chips (and when I say chips, I mean French fries, which are invariably better than anything I ate on the other side of the pond).
The roads are wide and easy to navigate, especially in California. Admittedly, the traffic is terrible, but with six huge lanes, who cares? Also, there are three million satellite radio channels to while away the hours you spend sitting in traffic, so it’s all rather enjoyable.
Speaking of cars, the cars are enormous, and luxurious! I’m sure the UK is catching up, but everyone here drives monster cars (including me), which aren’t really cars, they’re more like our own private universes.
But there are a few things that continue to puzzle me, even after seventeen years. You can’t find a decent cup of tea to save your life. Also, herbal tea does not count as tea, which should be PG Tips or Tetley’s, and come with copious amounts of milk and sugar. Americans also do not say please and thank you as much as we do, and often, I have noticed that instead of saying “you’re welcome”, or “it’s a pleasure,” they say, “uh huh”. Which is just odd. But the thing that worries me most, is the gap in the public loos.
All the bathroom stalls in this country seem to have not only gaps top and bottom (understandable, and not terrible – on cop shows they can always look underneath to see if someone has overdosed), but, and this is the bit that continues to bother me, they also have huge gaps on the side. THE SIDE. What are they thinking?
I’m not talking about a sliver through which daylight can shine, I’m talking, in many cases, about a good three quarters of an inch, which doesn’t sound like a lot, until you are minding your own business in what you assume is the privacy of your cubicle, and you find yourself making eye contact with someone standing by the sinks.
The people at Buzzfeed are also confused, and I don’t blame them.
I don’t understand it. There seems little point in even having a door. I always heave a sigh of relief when there’s a hook at the top and I’m wearing a drapey scarf that I can expertly drape to cover the gap.
Once upon a time, I was able to avoid public loos entirely. Now, as a middle-aged woman, I find it is not so easy. I shall just have to make sure I bring my scarves, and fill my bag with double-sided sellotape.