Diary of an Ex-Expat, Part 12
Things not to say
So I spent the last week back in the United States, which gives me the opportunity to sample some things that the United States is quite good at, namely beef and long, straight roads.

It is still the roads that weird me out the most when I return to the United States — eight and ten lanes wide, and all of them packed. I-225, which is how you get around in eastern Denver, is a clusterfuck of massive proportions.

All the same I'd be lying if I didn't admit that there's definitely something to the open road. The top down, the smell of petrichor, dropping into top gear as you point the nose of your car towards a building thunderstorm, when the air crackles with possibility...

It is nice.

The flight back was a little rough. I didn't miss any of my connections, which is good — and rare. The last couple of times I've done this, the travel agency has decided that half an hour is plenty of time for a connection, and the airlines have decided that half an hour is plenty of time to sit motionless at the departure gate before announcing an ephemeral problem with "one of our systems."

And on the eight-hour flight from Minneapolis to Paris, I got to reflect on a couple of things that I would be pretty happy if Americans stopped doing. So you know, guys. Don't do it.

First thing! Some people in the world are not Christians. I know; it sucks. Cornering them on an eight hour trans-Atlantic flight: not appropriate! Even if it looks like they're humoring you because they smile and nod when you talk about your favorite books, I guarantee you they are probably not going to be swayed by your half-assed explanation of Corinthians.

Also, yes, thunderheads are pretty. When somebody talks about them to change the subject, pointing to them and talking about how much they remind you of God's beauty is probably not the answer that your conversation partner was really going for. But I mean, I guess if you can convince one person? Maybe?

(Hey, you know another thing Americans do well? French fries. Partly they're just naturally better, and partially because you guys don't look at them, lick your slavering muzzles hungrily, and go "yup. Needs mayonnaise.")

The other thing is trickier because I don't exactly know where parody ends and it begins. But you know how you see a country with functioning universal health care or roads that aren't full of potholes, and you think to yourself: "man, that's only possible because of the Pax Americana! Finland would never be able to develop their own bus system without the American military."

Stop that. It's stupid. Europe does not exist because of the United States, and it certainly does not exist because of the Pentagon. This is an evolution of the "we saved your asses in the war" line that American tourists famously employee in France and the UK. I don't think they do, or at least I haven't seen them doing so. But I did hear a couple of people muttering about this in response to going overseas to Europe, and as I said I can't tell where satire ends.

(Final thing Americans do well, because I'm jetlagged and irritable: mattresses and pillows. I really wish it made economic sense to import them here; German pillows are terrible and square-shaped :( )
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