With my parents chomping at their respective bits for a chance to hang out with Daughter (the family's nine-month-old celebrity VIP), Wife and I decided to bring her overseas for a ten-day visit to the US. That meant ten days of frantic eating, drinking, shopping, gift giving and jet lag, all made even more frantic with the addition of an infant (not to mention the fact that my American driver's licence had lapsed, meaning we had to depend on family members for transportation at all times; in that respect it was like being 14 again).
I don't mean for this post to become another trite "reverse culture shock" observation (e.g., "OMG you guys, the American medium-size Pepsi is totally a Japanese large"), but on this trip I noticed something I've never noticed before:
Wisconsin needs more walkers.
OK. No. That is not what I mean.
Also not what I mean.
Oh, god. Anything but that idiot.
What I mean is that Americans are violently allergic to walking. I don't think it's our fault, exactly. Residents of the USA live in an environment that fosters an acute dislike -- you might even call it a phobia -- of walking. For example, my mother's apartment is less than a five-minute drive from the shopping mall, but the notion of walking instead of driving is discouraged by a perfect storm of inconveniences. No sidewalks, no crossings, no way to safely traverse the nearby highway exit ramp and about six feet of filthy snow piled up on both sides of the road where the plows have pushed it.
The result is a culture in which people have been conditioned to dread even the shortest pedestrian undertaking. In the parking lot of said shopping mall, my mother drove around and around looking for a spot closer to the doors, the farthest spot being less than a hundred yards away.
You'd think a country so preoccupied with NFL football would find the thrill in covering those hundred yards on foot.