Friday, April 17, 2015

On leaving the U.S., again

Let's start at the beginning: what does a pop tart really taste like? I have been in the U.S. long enough that I should have had plenty of opportunities to find out, but honestly, I've never tried one. And never really felt like trying one either. Especially not for breakfast. I have vastly different ideas about what a good breakfast should and should not entail than what most Americans do (judging only from the breakfast aisle in any given grocery store, naturally).

Well, even if I am leaving I have made sure I'll get the chance to figure out this mystery. I've bought a box of pop tarts. I fully expect I won't like them very much, but at least now my expectations aren't too high...

Don't get me wrong, I approve of a lot of breakfast related things here too. For instance the concept of going out for breakfast (even if I normally would choose a different dish than pancakes, but even I get that this only makes me weird...). Or even better, brunch. One of the restaurants in the vicinity of my hotel in Atlanta advertizes that they serve bottomless mimosas* or Bloody Marys for Sunday brunch. Even if that makes me think of Kenny Falmouth of Monkey Island, it does sound like a sweet deal.

My own breakfast routine most days while I've been in the U.S., however, has been quite a bit more sober than that. I've been in two different hotels in two different parts of the country, but I could always find some channel that showed reruns of old shows - especially "Charmed". Interestingly I never really watched "Charmed" when it was a big deal way back when I was a kiddo (many of my friends did, and I can't remember exactly what made me not watch it, though I suspect it might have had something to do with the fact that we didn't have cable or satelite, and thus a very limited range of channels). Anyway, with all these reruns - and not just this time, but last time I visited the U.S. too, as well as when we went to the U.K. for vacation in November - it seems I have the show pretty much covered. But then, yesterday, the seemingly endless string of reruns ended. The very last episode of the show! Now what will I do for breakfast? I suppose it was only fitting as I am leaving today. Also, I am ignoring the fact that they started over again with the very first season this morning, so I really could watch it all if I only stayed a couple of months more - with three episodes per day that should probably cover it...

Even if I haven't watched it religiously in the past, however, I still know the show well enough to have the benefit of rewatching, as the best thing about watching old shows, of course, is that you don't have to pay very careful attention. So I could walk back and forth, take a shower, get dressed, eat, or even work a little while it ran in the background. While this has been a perfect mode for the minial task of sorting through archive documents as afterwork from my visit there during work hours, I am relieved it is over. My back aches from being slumped over my laptop for long stretches at the time, in uncomfortable seating positions in a hotel bed. My eyes are sore and my head hurts from trying to remember archive codes and sorting the files into their right place. My fingers have paper cuts from old documents, and I am sick of working twelve hour days (even if portions of them have been accompanied by "Charmed"). I even missed out on vacation days during my stay here, as most Norwegians take the whole week of Easter off.

Another good thing about ending my TV-meets-work streak now is that I don't have to watch commercials anymore. We have commercials on most channels in Norway too, but first of all I don't watch all that much TV at home (I have Netflix and HBO Nordic, after all), and secondly, last time I checked our commercials were less disturbing than many of the ones here.

What mostly baffles me are the medical commercials. This and this drug will help you with this and that disease. It will have the following side effects: [insert long list of terrible things that almost always ends with DEATH for good measure]. Talk to your doctor today!

Talk to your doctor? Why would I, as the patient, go to my doctor and explain about some drug? Isn't it the doctor's job to tell the patient what the best treatment for whatever disease or ailment they have should be? I realize doctors in the U.S. are frequently sponsored by the medical companies and thus might have preferences for specific drug for other reasons than what works better, but if that's the case you really ought to find another doctor with a better sense of ethics, rather than presenting the one you've already got with a lecture based on a TV commerical.

But that set aside, back to the commercials themselves. Can we all agree that they are pretty disturbing? Listing all those side effects is obviously something they are obliged to do for legal reasons, but I still find it amazing that someone would take them up on the offer of talking to their doctor after having heard all the horrible things this drug might inflict, presented to them in a voice of an actor you can *hear* is wearing a fake smile (how can you hear that, you ask? Well, just listen the next time one of those commercials are on. You can hear it).

Secondly, why are they always walking on the beach in these commercials? Strolling along the shore, or in a forest, or playing in the garden with a pet or child. Always the same setting. Fake smiles. Super disturbing.

Finally, the most disturbing thing to me isn't the medical commercials themselves, but in combination of another type of commercials: the mass lawsuit ones. "Have you or your loved ones experienced [insert terrible side effect caused by medical malpractise]? You might be entitled to compensation!" I realize there isn't a coherent line from people suggesting to their doctors what medicines to take for their ailments to them suing the doctor (or whomever) for having suffered consequences of malpractise. But it seems to me there is something strange about where the system puts liability. The patient is supposed to advice the doctor, while the doctors and other parts of the healthcare system are forced to focus on covering their butts legally rather than providing the best possible option for the patient. I'm not saying it's necessarily different elsewhere or that I have a solution to this, but I am saying the frequent commericals serve to give a creepy reminder of what a nasty world it can be.

I'll miss things too, though. I might have issues with certain parts of commercial America, but I don't think I'll ever stop marvelling at the selection in stores here. Whether it is grocery shopping or browsing for dresses, I keep finding myself enchanted. It's dangerous for my wallet, but it's making my little shopping heart burst with joy. Every time I visit the U.S. I seem to end up with a new wardrobe and don't even get me started on bookstores. When I came here in 2009 the selection seemed wider (I miss Borders!), but give me a good Barnes & Noble any day, and I'll be lost that day. They even have coffee in there! Why would you ever want to leave?

More important than the things I leave behind (good or bad), though, are the things I'm going back to. I miss my home, I miss my friends and family, I miss the regularity of my daily routine (the normal one, not the one involving "Charmed"), Norwegian language, food and weather (!), Oslo, my apartment, all the things I know and love. Most importantly, I miss my boyfriend. Four weeks is a long time to be away from everything, and even though I've enjoyed my stay in the U.S. I can't wait to go home.

Now I'm going to make the hotel cat who has been keeping me company this morning go back out into the corridor so I don't accidentally pack him, and then I'll finish stuffing my suitcase. Somehow, it gained weight during this trip (see section about "shopping" above).

*Huh. When I googled "bottomless" to find the link for Kenny, Google automatically suggested "bottomless mimosas atlanta". Apparently, this is a big deal here!


Kelly said...

Oh my. There are so many things I'd like to weigh-in on here, but I'll spare you. Count yourself fortunate! ;) (I'm very "anti-pharmaceutical companies" these days, not to mention the litigious society we have)

I don't think you ever shared what you DO like for breakfast. For me, it's oatmeal cooked with soymilk and a dash of cardamom & cinnamon. Slice in a banana and it's perfection.

It's been years since I've had a pop tart, but back in the day my favorites were the brown sugar/cinnamon and the frosted strawberry.

Hope you have/had a good trip home!

David Macaulay said...

I'm happy to re-find this blog. I think I forgot about it but the name is kind of distinctive..

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