5. Just Two Stops
We did stop at a rest area to eat our sandwiches and call our friends in Redding. And the public telephone was my next adventure. Public telephones in most countries are simple things, but they are very quickly being relegated to out-dated children’s school history text books, along with transistors, LPs(19) and video players(20). In New Zealand you usually guess at how much money you need and normally it is a flat rate, ’cause why would you call a mobile phone? Then you dial the number. It took me about five goes to work out that on this particular phone, first you dial the number and then a voice appears in the ear piece and tells you how much money you need, then you put the money in and the call is connected. Rather practical really, but difficult to work out when your brain is still trying to remember ‘249 West’.
On the way we had one more stop and introduction to American culture. We stopped at a no-name Hicksville Californian town. The reason we stopped is because we noticed that amongst the clutter of wayside billboards was one advertising something called The Olive Pit. I thought I had seen olive groves on the roadside and I love olives, so decided to stop. Plus we had agreed to post some urgent documents for some friends back home and Nowhereville seemed like the perfect place. Well Hicksville was basically an intersection with some gas stations, fast food, a couple of shops, city hall, post office and The Olive Pit.
There were no olive groves, in fact all of those large freeway billboards were simply advertising a shop. Still, they got us in. We parked in the car park, walked through the heat and into the shop. Now there is a bizarre phenomena, bizarre in that American kind of way, when you enter American shops. They all seem to echo. Sometimes the echo is consistent, sometimes it varies, but without exception every American shop actually has an echo.
Take for example, this shop. I opened the door to let Sharon walk in and we both heard coming out of nowhere, the words ‘good morning mam’ and then we heard it again. Then I walked in letting the door close behind me. And I heard the words ‘good morning sir’ and again ‘good morning sir’. The words were possibly pumped in over a stereo or something. I walked a few metres into the store and a total stranger, and I do mean a total stranger, I had never seen the woman before, walked up to me and said it again, “Good Morning sir”. It was here that I actually realised that she was speaking to me. But it was perfectly clear that she didn’t have a clue who I was or where I was from, because she called me ‘sir’. In New Zealand, we don’t like titles and have long since stopped knighting(21) people and calling them sir or madam.
I mean, who did this woman think she was, why should she talk to me, what right does she have to interrupt my thought patterns? I just wanted to find some tapenade, I didn’t want to be forced to flash fake smiles and speak to strangers. Did her mother never teach her that it is dangerous to speak to strangers. Gosh in Eastern Europe sometimes we don’t even speak to people we know. This weird phenomena of strange, smiley happy shop assistants wanting to know how my day was going, how I was, or if everything was okay, was simply overwhelming and often darn right weird. I don’t know if these people were really as happy as they made themselves out to be or not, but secretly it was kind of nice to see so many smiley faces and anyway, happiness is contagious.
Finally, I live in Lithuania where the driving is usually shocking and fast. Californians are comparatively very polite and very slow drivers. However I was surprised to realise that Lithuania and Europe, generally speaking have much better freeways than America. We arrived in Redding tired, but somewhat rested after our three-hour drive.
To be continued. Don’t miss next week for a peek inside freaky christian culture.
For past chapters click here. Or look on the side panel.
You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry 🙁
And to donate towards the production of ‘Clueless in America’, just click on the button.