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The Weirdest Things About America (YMMV).
September 1, 2013 6:39 AM   Subscribe


 
Eh, I think we just do a better job of hiding the poor. Through anti-loitering laws, in 'bad' neighborhoods, etc...
posted by leotrotsky at 7:01 AM on September 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


But just think, the poor could be waiting us, hand and foot, while we shopped in upscale stores!
posted by filthy light thief at 7:05 AM on September 1, 2013 [22 favorites]


A lot of this is very California-tinged, which has its own culture, so that retail thing seems odd. Retail clerks in California always seem much more eager to chat you up/show off the products than in say, New England, where asking for help in a store is considered a personal weakness.

Oh, and that SUDDENTLY ...ATTENTION! Whiplash you get if you say, loose a lot of weight/get fit in a short period of time is SUPER real and super disorienting and more than a little creepy.
posted by The Whelk at 7:07 AM on September 1, 2013 [32 favorites]


Foreign student at Carnegie Mellon and intern at a Silicon Valley tech firm, I don't think he's had the full American experience yet.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 7:07 AM on September 1, 2013 [38 favorites]


I have to admit that given the site, I went into this expecting this student's musings to be a vehicle for a certain pro-austerity "Americans are too over-privileged; they need to work much harder and expect much less in life to remain competitive" editorial, but I was pleasantly surprised at how favorably the U.S. comes across in some of these musings, especially the ones about helping each other succeed (without resorting to cheating) at work and at school.

There's still a lot to be embarrassed/ashamed of, and a few observations I'd dispute as being unrepresentative, but at least there's a non-zero number of things that I can somewhat proudly say "yeah, at least we're getting that right!"
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:10 AM on September 1, 2013 [15 favorites]


I'm wondering if he went to Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley since a lot of his observations don't make sense in Pittsburgh (especially the brick houses one).
posted by octothorpe at 7:12 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Whelk: yeah, that resonated for me too, and it definitely interferes with my attempts to (once again) lose weight. I'm actually happier being ignored most of the time, and the extra attention when I am not fat is unpleasant.
posted by idiopath at 7:15 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I don't understand why they can't drink or make coffee before leaving for work. Such a waste of money! ($5/day * 5days / week * 52weeks/year)!"

This comment, not just from him, drives me bonkers. Not every expenditure in life is about optimizing efficiency or hoarding every cent. I go to work and collect a salary so that I can spend it, either on savings for a future event (big purchase, not going to work after a certain age, etc.) or for the here-and-now. Buying a treat (a coffee from a shop, a movie not watched on Netflix, etc.), even a daily one, is reasonable.
posted by fireoyster at 7:16 AM on September 1, 2013 [23 favorites]


Yeah, very little of this applies to the East Coast.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:17 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Quite a bit of this -- people not flaunting accomplishments, that ethics nonsense -- reads like A Child's Garden of Confirmation Biases. But, to be fair this guy is like, 19? 20?

And, yeah, there's definitely an coastal thing going on as well.
posted by griphus at 7:19 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not every expenditure in life is about optimizing efficiency or hoarding every cent.

And all the freshman engineers in the room go " but that doesn't make sny sense."
posted by The Whelk at 7:20 AM on September 1, 2013 [16 favorites]


Yeah, very little of this applies to the East Coast.

Damn straight, we eat each other alive here. Any eftovers are decimated by either snow or humidity.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:21 AM on September 1, 2013 [34 favorites]


Precise stats are hard to come by, but in comparing the plight of the poor, likely 10 million Indians die of hunger annually. Perhaps 100-200 Americans. (1 of 80 vs 1 in 1.5 million) Completely accurate stats are hard to come by, but likely something along those lines. If you think the poor in India do not have it worse materially by a gigantic measure you are incorrect. It is not a matter of hidden vs non-hidden.
posted by jcworth at 7:21 AM on September 1, 2013 [59 favorites]


Anyway, I suspect he will go trough the same thing I did a few years ago when I found my journal from when I was 19 detailing the differences between England and America having being there for the long and sagaous period of two whole weeks.

Except he won't be able to rip out of those pages and burn them.
posted by The Whelk at 7:23 AM on September 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


His observation here struck me: "In America, on the other hand, even if you go to a Nordstrom or Bloomingdales, there is almost nobody to help you out while you're shopping."

I frequently have people ask me whether I need anything - and sometimes even follow me around making suggestions - and I have to deliberately ask them to leave me alone. I bet a lot of his experience was because he was a) male, and b) nonwhite.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:24 AM on September 1, 2013 [49 favorites]


I love this. Maybe he isn't "right" about everything, but it's what he sees. He can't be wrong about his impressions. I love getting to see my world through his eyes, no matter what the limitations are.

One of my favorite books was a tourist guide to the USA from England. It pointed out things they found odd, from baseball (explained as if you knew cricket) to the fact that a flag on a building doesn't mean it's a government building. Also not to make fun of that as we'll get upset.

I wish I could read more like this, translated from other languages I am unable to read.
posted by cccorlew at 7:26 AM on September 1, 2013 [41 favorites]


I was completely left alone at Bloomingdales until the first microsecond before I expressed genuine interest in something, then they just materialized out of nowhere. Spooky.
posted by The Whelk at 7:26 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


For the record there are in fact neighborhoods in Detroit where Eminem does not live, and we do have indoor plumbing in Louisiana.
posted by localroger at 7:28 AM on September 1, 2013 [12 favorites]


Oh there was an FPP on foreign travel guides to the US, i remember a French one that was basically a list of designer clearance stores and smug Gallic asides like " well of course you can't eat correctly, but you can made do with ( hugely expensive Parisian style bistro)."
posted by The Whelk at 7:28 AM on September 1, 2013


For the record there are in fact neighborhoods in Detroit where Eminem does not live

Yeah, like ALL of them. He lives in Rochester.
posted by HuronBob at 7:30 AM on September 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


Small US retailers used to be the same way, before they were shut down by the big chains. You'd walk in, and the shopkeeper or one of their clerks would attend you every moment, offering advice, helping you try on and re-shelve items. This level of service is pricey, so no one does it anymore.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:30 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well it's also a comparatively new idea that you would go seeking for products yourself and not just read off a list of the stuff you want to a clerk who would then go and fetch it - the desire for cheaper labor costs drives damn near everything.
posted by The Whelk at 7:32 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


The way that you know that he wasn't in the northeast is that his #1 observation wasn't, "OMG how the hell do you insane people deal with winter?" which is what every Asian, African or Latin American student around here asks about half way through fall semester.
posted by octothorpe at 7:33 AM on September 1, 2013 [27 favorites]


Just last week I was talking with a coworker. About 10 years ago, her grandmother came to visit her from Mumbai, and was constantly surprised at the automatic doors (the ones that open electronically). That hadn't made it to Mumbai yet, and apparently she took great pleasure in telling people (here in the States and back home) about the wonders she'd seen.

Interesting to see things from other perspectives.
posted by Houstonian at 7:36 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


The only thing that stuck with me during my first trip to southern California was the pink parking spots right near the entrance of a store for Pregant women. That seemed sensible.

Oh and that waxy, erosion halting ground creeper all over the place.
posted by The Whelk at 7:39 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Quite a bit of this -- people not flaunting accomplishments, that ethics nonsense -- reads like A Child's Garden of Confirmation Biases

I think many of these have to do with the observer being from Mumbai. British people are shocked by Americans' eagerness to flaunt their resumes. But to someone from India or China, Americans seem unbelievably polite and un-pushy about their achievements.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:40 AM on September 1, 2013 [16 favorites]


Unlimited refills for anything is something I find odd about America.

Fruit and vegetable prices, as compared to fast food prices
I have also heard a lot of.

I can't talk to the rest. I haven't been there. I have opinions.
posted by Mezentian at 7:41 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


This level of service is pricey, so no one does it anymore.

I hate clothes shopping and avoid doing it at brick-and-mortar places whenever possible, but whenever I've shopped at Nordstrom I've gotten a someone who runs around collecting stuff in my size that they think will go well together and so on. Nordstrom ain't cheap, of course, but still - this is a thing that still exists.

(It's also a thing I kind of hate, but I put up with it because I don't want to dig through a pile of millions of shirts to find the ones in my size.)
posted by rtha at 7:42 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


The way that you know that he wasn't in the northeast is that his #1 observation wasn't, "OMG how the hell do you insane people deal with winter?" which is what every Asian, African or Latin American student around here asks about half way through fall semester.

Shades of my old "it is not Mumbai it is Bombay" roomate who continually complained about the cold, until it was 95 degrees and sweltering. Then he told me the weather was perfect.

He was a strange cat. Only spoke English and had a Portugese name. A rabid Catholic, he was horrified by the liberal priest at our school's Newman Center.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:43 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Quite a bit of this -- people not flaunting accomplishments, that ethics nonsense -- reads like A Child's Garden of Confirmation Biases

I'm more in the "believing a person from another country about the differences between our countries" camp. I've never been to India, so I'm gonna guess he may have some actual insights.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:46 AM on September 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


For the record there are in fact neighborhoods in Detroit where Eminem does not live,

there are neighborhoods in detroit where no one lives

and we do have indoor plumbing in Louisiana.

especially when it rains
posted by pyramid termite at 7:47 AM on September 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


This comment, not just from him, drives me bonkers. Not every expenditure in life is about optimizing efficiency or hoarding every cent. I go to work and collect a salary so that I can spend it, either on savings for a future event (big purchase, not going to work after a certain age, etc.) or for the here-and-now. Buying a treat (a coffee from a shop, a movie not watched on Netflix, etc.), even a daily one, is reasonable.

Yeah, same here for this Indian-but-not-in-US-or-India. The daily cuppa on the way to work is a lifesaver. Absolutely dont mind paying a bit more for this.

The retail experience is nowhere near as fun/nice as it is in India. Because labor is cheap in India, there is always someone who will act as a "personal shopper" to assist you with holding your clothes, giving suggestions, etc.

I've *never* had this happen in India, like ever. Must be one of those new-India things that I'm not used to; definitely would feel uncomfortable if someone was waiting on me in that manner.

I think many of these have to do with the observer being from Mumbai. British people are shocked by Americans' eagerness to flaunt their resumes. But to someone from India or China, Americans seem unbelievably polite and un-pushy about their achievements.

Definitely a Mumbai thing, I agree. I've grown up some 800km south of Mumbai, and I used to find it strange when people talk about themselves at length, although now I've gotten used to it and I sometimes even do it myself unconsciously, even. (Which is to say, there are Indians who do this flaunting thing naturally, but it comes from privilege and in trying to signal to the listener which pigeon-hole they should put them in)
posted by the cydonian at 7:49 AM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


there are neighborhoods in detroit where no one lives

Good news! SNAP! There is a MAJOR HOLLYWOOD BLOCKBUSTER coming to town that will CREATE PARKLAND.

In my day we made jokes about OCP. I know so little about Detroit, but I feel comfortable about this one.
posted by Mezentian at 7:50 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hate clothes shopping and avoid doing it at brick-and-mortar places whenever possible, but whenever I've shopped at Nordstrom I've gotten a someone who runs around collecting stuff in my size that they think will go well together and so on. Nordstrom ain't cheap, of course, but still - this is a thing that still exists.

I know how shallow and awful and elitiest it makes me sound but after spending years, decades! Running around goodwill and consignment shops, digging through piles of clothes and free boxes and carefully inspecting everything for stains or alteration points or horrible grub larva, it was an impossibly decadent, wonderful relief to hand over my measurements to someone, sit in a comfy chair and say I was looking for something for the fall and winter, conservative cut, wool or flannel ideally and them go and get it for me while I have a cup of a tea. Just not having to spend a few weekends' worth of engery is apparently worth a thousand percent mark up or something.
posted by The Whelk at 7:53 AM on September 1, 2013 [21 favorites]


Retail clerks in California always seem much more eager to chat you up/show off the products than in say, New England, where asking for help in a store is considered a personal weakness.

It's not a sign of personal weakness in New England to ask for help when shopping, though it is an unredeemable character flaw to expect that the clerks are there to fawningly wait on you or provide any sort of social interaction beyond a simple exchange of pleasantries.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:53 AM on September 1, 2013 [22 favorites]


I'm having trouble finding it, but there was an excellent AskMe thread a few years ago where we went into these things.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:57 AM on September 1, 2013


Is Business Insider just another linkbait listicle kinda place like Buzzfeed or whatever, except with a name that makes it sound like you should read it at work?
posted by box at 8:05 AM on September 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


I don't know what planet he's on when it comes to integrity, honestly.
posted by angrycat at 8:08 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


From the integrity to the bragging, I didn't find his comments that far afield. Though, I operate mainly from a Missouri/Arkansas/Virginia basis.

My question concerns the depiction of women as promiscuous in Hollywood films. Is this basically a matter of comparison between Bollywood film levels of chaste depictions of love and romance against American films?
posted by Atreides at 8:16 AM on September 1, 2013


I must never go shopping in India. Being pestered by salespeople fills me with rage.
posted by windykites at 8:16 AM on September 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


I also found it interesting that he didn't explain how exactly he discovered that American women are not as promiscuous as they are portrayed in Hollywood films. :D
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:18 AM on September 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


"And they were especially not promiscuous when I was heavier!"
posted by Navelgazer at 8:20 AM on September 1, 2013 [28 favorites]


He seems like a reasonably bright guy sharing his perspective, especially as it compares to his experience at home. Interesting perspective from a culture that's has some striking differences. I'd love to see a followup in a few years.
posted by theora55 at 8:26 AM on September 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


northeast is that his #1 observation wasn't, "OMG how the hell do you insane people deal with winter?"

I'm in ND, 40 miles below the Canukistan border. When it snows here, it comes at you sideways. My doctor is from India and he's been here two years. He has adapted just fine to our winter. Much better than all the transplanted good ol' boys up here for the oil boom. They never stop bitching.
posted by Ber at 8:26 AM on September 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


In California, a lot of the lack of brick is to do with brick buildings having an unfortunate tendency to become rubble in earthquakes.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:26 AM on September 1, 2013 [15 favorites]


The way that you know that he wasn't in the northeast is that his #1 observation wasn't, "OMG how the hell do you insane people deal with winter?" which is what every Asian, African or Latin American student around here asks about half way through fall semester.


One of my favorite part of going to school in the northeast was seeing the freshman from other countries and California experience their first snow. Their eyes full of magical, childlike wonder. Until the second day, when they were quite ready for it to be done and over. But oh man, the feels of that first day. I wish I could bottle them up and share them with the world.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 8:30 AM on September 1, 2013 [12 favorites]


I would hate being followed around in a store by a "personal shopper." Are they suspecting me of being a shoplifter? Do they want a tip for holding the clothes? Am I an asshole if they "help" me try on 20 outfits and I only bought one or none? I would feel pressured to spend more because I am being heavy-duty "helped" and I can't get them to leave me alone so I can think about it.

I really hate buying things where you HAVE to be "helped" by a salesperson (I.e. big ticket items) for those reasons.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:32 AM on September 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


Buying a treat (a coffee from a shop, a movie not watched on Netflix, etc.), even a daily one, is reasonable.

But when you buy it daily you habituate to it and it isn't much of a treat anymore. One of the curses of being an adult is that when you can have anything you want anytime you want nothing feels very special anymore.

When I was a kid a doughnut was was a lightening bolt of joy. Now even artisanal chocolate long john doughnuts with maple sugared bacon on them are just okay.
posted by srboisvert at 8:34 AM on September 1, 2013 [30 favorites]


Some observations about what it means to be part of a particular culture: http://www.zompist.com/amercult.html
posted by blob at 8:34 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


and I can't get them to leave me alone so I can think about it.

Said with smile: I'm still looking, if I need help I'll be sure to come find you.

then again I never shop without knowing exactly what I want beforehand anymore, like with a few pages of research in my pocket, no recreational browsing. Ever.
posted by The Whelk at 8:38 AM on September 1, 2013


In California, a lot of the lack of brick is to do with brick buildings having an unfortunate tendency to become rubble in earthquakes.

Also cheapo building practices that allow you to slap up a plywood subdivision in a week or two.

I'm having trouble understanding "full service rest stops with decent chain restaurants and big supermarkets every couple of miles on interstate highways."

Is he mistaking towns for rest stops? I've never seen a supermarket at a rest stop, and I've traveled quite a bit in California. And of course, I live in Arizona, where you'll be lucky to find one working toilet between Tucson and the California border.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:40 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Boom! Found it! (AskMe thread about the "little differences" international people find in the U.S.)
posted by Navelgazer at 8:41 AM on September 1, 2013 [6 favorites]




I am not sure what he means by women in the US being depicted as being promiscuous by Hollywood, but I do wonder if this has to do with a trend I have noticed in movies over the years.

In a movie, when a couple kisses, they almost always have sex. Almost always. Typically, we see the couple kiss for a moment, and then there is a cutaway to the two of them talking in bed after sex or to one of them sneaking out of the bedroom the next morning. It doesn't matter if they have been flirting for weeks, met five minutes ago at a party, are both married to other people, work together, etc. If they kiss, they have sex.

I have been with my wife for ten years, so it has been a while since I have been out there. However, I can assure that my experience back in my dating days was not that a kiss meant we were having sex. I have kissed a lot more people than I have had sex with. Maybe things have changed and people instantly have sex when they kiss now. Or maybe I was a terrible kisser. Or maybe Hollywood misrepresents this part of sexual/romantic interaction in a way that the person in the FPP believed was true.
posted by flarbuse at 8:43 AM on September 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


Is he mistaking towns for rest stops? I've never seen a supermarket at a rest stop, and I've traveled quite a bit in California.

I think he's talking about gas station convenience stores that may approach neighborhood market status when you're out on the highway amdist tiny scattered towns. Those often have a fast food joint integrated into them too.

Like along US-395.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:44 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Said with smile: I'm still looking, if I need help I'll be sure to come find you.

Yes, this. The smile lets them see your vampire teeth.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:50 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, definitely a narrow view. Nothing about how we treat (*cough*coddle) our kids, who respond with all-American tantrums, or how amazingly friendly most people are to complete strangers? Or just how big (tall, wide) we are in general? Those are the things that always strike me most returning home after time abroad.
posted by gottabefunky at 8:54 AM on September 1, 2013


snuffleupagus, I guess that makes sense. I think of "rest stop" as a state maintained location. In Washington state, they have free coffee at the rest stops! And I know back east, they have big travel plazas because there aren't many exits off the highway.

But in the west, I've always considered the gas station/truck areas as extensions of towns that are somewhere right off the interstate somewhere. Like Toltec and Casa Grande between Tucson and Phoenix.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:55 AM on September 1, 2013


I also found it interesting that he didn't explain how exactly he discovered that American women are not as promiscuous as they are portrayed in Hollywood films. :D
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:18 AM on September 1 [1 favorite +] [!]


He sounded a little disappointed there, didn't he?
posted by Paul Slade at 8:58 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


On the I-5 though, the town's are actually separated from the freeway by several miles. Oftentimes the only way you know your passing a town it's there's an offramp. Must be nice to not constantly hear the roar of traffic.
posted by happyroach at 8:59 AM on September 1, 2013


I read the entire thread of comments for the original Quora thread. It took a long time.

Unfortunately, I didn't take notes so I'm much less able to turn it into a productive exercise by summarizing the more interesting and repeated observations. Ah, well.

What I do recall, though, which were mentioned by more than one non-American:
  • Wood houses. Uncommon in (some parts of) Europe.
  • Dedicated, yellow schoolbuses. Many people thought these were a Hollywood affectation. Many don't understand why the US has such things.
  • I think at least two people commented on the sound of crickets and frogs at night, which they had previously thought a Hollywood affectation. I'm thinking: what part of the world doesn't have night animals and insects?
  • Numerous people can't understand electric carts and assume almost all users are just lazy. Even those who are not overweight. There was one Australian woman who was corrected by several people who just didn't get it, still pretty much was sure that obese and non-obese alike were just lazy because where she's from disabled people don't use electric carts. (Yes, as a disabled person, this caught my interest.)
  • Pretty much every non-American commented on food portion size.
  • Like the guy in the linked article, the Indians, especially, were astonished at cheaper bulk prices and at the ability to return items. I think the biggest reason for this difference is that in India labor is cheap and so production costs dominate, but in the US labor is expensive and for less expensive items labor dominates. Free drink refills make sense in the US because the cost of the soft-drink itself is basically nothing (a penny or two) and the customer is refilling it themselves. That's true for the all-you-can-eat-buffets, too, especially in that people don't end up eating much more than they would have taken, anyway, because our portion sizes are large in the first place.
  • People from the developing countries, and probably from parts of Europe, too, find the diaspora of families to be very strange and off-putting. Living hundreds of thousands of miles from one's parents and other relatives is weird.
I've probably forgotten the three most interesting observations.

One guy, also Indian, thought that school districts were just insane, and not because of the different tax bases causing differences in funding, which would have made sense. I don't think he knew enough to be aware of that. He just thought it was crazy that kids couldn't just go to whatever school the parents wanted, and that different schools would, I guess, just have different entrance requirements.

I find this interesting because at first blush this is well-nigh incomprehensible to me, but after some consideration I understand it. What is different in the US relative to India, is a) the universal k-12, free, public school education, in conjunction with b) a society that is more egalitarian than India but not as egalitarian as, say, northern Europe, and c) ubiquitous car ownership along with publicly-provided transportation to schools for students. Those three things means that if any child could go to any school, then because we're wealthy enough, and pretty much all children go to k-12, and because transportation isn't any obstacle, then there'd be these huge sorting mechanisms where all the children would want to go to schools that were perceived as being better or offering social advantage but with no school mechanism to act as a barrier to entry other than first-come-first-serve. And, of course, who would pay for those schools? County? State? Federal?

There's a whole paradigm implicit in how US public schools work that involves all sorts of contingent history. Federalism and related localism in governance and how that involves taxation. Race and income. How universal education arose in the US during a time and place when it was still relatively very rural and remained so until the post-war era and so it was necessary for many school districts in the 20th century to provide transportation for students (note how this intersects which schools students attend). It's an utterly different history with a profoundly different set of issues and so the whole way of thinking about this is different between India and the US. Not that I'm an expert or pretend to be an expert on these issues and histories, so I welcome correction or further insight.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:12 AM on September 1, 2013 [19 favorites]


It's obviously not true to say that only the poor are fat, and the rich are thin. Is it true though, or more true, that the very poor are fat and the super-rich are thin?
posted by anothermug at 9:19 AM on September 1, 2013


Ivan Fyodorovich: "Dedicated, yellow schoolbuses. Many people thought these were a Hollywood affectation. Many don't understand why the US has such things."

In case anyone is interested, here is the background on National School Bus Yellow.
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:23 AM on September 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


box: Is Business Insider just another linkbait listicle kinda place like BuzzFeed or whatever, except with a name that makes it sound like you should read it at work?

It's borderline. Some MeFites see it as ranking below Buzzfeed, and Business Insider is compared to BuzzFeed and Gawker in terms number of tweets from the company writers that link to company articles.

Here's a piece from 2011 -- Business Insider: Over-Aggregation and the Mad Grab for Traffic. The final line:
One would hope readers and advertisers would eventually catch on to the kind of lazy lifting that would earn middle school students an F. But that hasn’t happened yet.
Zing!
posted by filthy light thief at 9:41 AM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm more in the "believing a person from another country about the differences between our countries" camp. I've never been to India, so I'm gonna guess he may have some actual insights.

Yeah...I have to say that it seems doubtful to me that many folks here are really in an epistemic position that would warrant such skepticism about his conclusions...

The U.S. comes off really well on his accounting. That wouldn't, uh, be the problem, would it?
posted by Fists O'Fury at 9:43 AM on September 1, 2013 [15 favorites]


I really enjoyed this post, especially his observations about school. I wonder if his field had anything to do with the camaraderie. I noticed when I did my undergrad (in Canada, not the US, but I suspect weren't not that dissimilar in this respect) that people in the sciences tended to study together a lot more and help each other out than we did in the arts and social sciences. I always figured that it was easier to collaborate on problem solving than it was in something that hinged more on creating original ideas, like writing a paper.

And the thing about portion sizes is true. I'm willing to bet that most people around the world would find Canadian portion sizes large, but I'm still blown away by how big the portions for food are in the US and how cheap food is. I just recently took a motorcycle trip to the US, and my boyfriend and I marveled at how cheap food (and booze) was in the supermarkets we shopped at before retiring to our planned campsite for the night. A relatively gourmet burger (topped with bacon, blue cheese, mushrooms and arugula) was about half the cost of what I'd pay for a fairly ordinary burger in Canada. Beer also about half (guessing it's taxed less?)
posted by Kurichina at 9:43 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know what planet he's on when it comes to integrity

The planet of Mumbai (or Moscow, or Bejing, or Lima, or most of the world). For someone coming from a country where you must bribe multiple bureaucrats to get a phone line installed, American business, school, and government seems incredibly clean. The perception of American institutions are terribly corrupt is a very parochial, American perception.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:46 AM on September 1, 2013 [41 favorites]


Some places have really really nice rest stops nowadays. Far cry from when it was some bathrooms and a couple picnic tables and maybe a vending machine. You will get a mini food court with like burger king, subway, maybe kfc. A news stand with like 100 different magazines. strange novelty booths like dippin dots. I was at one where they were selling leather vests for like $5. I dunno what kind of situation you would be in that might necessitate a quick leather vest purchase.

The Internet makes things even more confusing. People must think all Americans are obsessed with cats.

I watch a fair amount of European youtubers and today one of them was talking about a comment someone left. I hadn't seen the comment so I was just as confused as him.

He said "you may have noticed the comment by. I don't know how to pronounce this name. I don't think this is an American name. Perhaps it is Dutch. I'm going to pronounce this in Welsh. Shrew..... I know what you are thinking but stop laughing. Get your minds out of the gutter. As near as I can tell the name is shrewbooch. I don't know what kind of name this is"

Looked at the comments. It was by "schrutebucks"
posted by Ad hominem at 9:51 AM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Dedicated, yellow schoolbuses. Many people thought these were a Hollywood affectation. Many don't understand why the US has such things.

This comes up every so often in Ireland when there is an accident or near-miss involving a school bus (which just look like regular rental coaches). People at home are really interested in the stop signs that pop out of the doors and the fines for passing them and things, as well as the colour.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:52 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wood houses. Uncommon in (some parts of) Europe.

In Israel, a cheap house is built with cinder blocks and floored with marble chip tiles. Timber is a luxury.
In America, a cheap house is built with timber and parquet flooring, and marble chip is a luxury.



Dedicated, yellow schoolbuses. Many people thought these were a Hollywood affectation. Many don't understand why the US has such things.


Having been in America for 24 years, I remain of the opinion that it's insane to have a fleet of buses that make at most 4 runs a day, that are filled only with children. Children should ride the same buses as their parents and neighbors. It's part of the civilizing process.


I think at least two people commented on the sound of crickets and frogs at night, which they had previously thought a Hollywood affectation. I'm thinking: what part of the world doesn't have night animals and insects?


It's more the tendency of Hollywood to use crickets as a trope to mark akward silences. Foreign filmmakers use silence to signify silence.
posted by ocschwar at 10:02 AM on September 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


Having been in America for 24 years, I remain of the opinion that it's insane to have a fleet of buses that make at most 4 runs a day, that are filled only with children. Children should ride the same buses as their parents and neighbors. It's part of the civilizing process.

Not to be a dick about this, but the busses are there because it's not at all clear that it would be possible for kids to get to school with their parents and/or neighbors and poorer/rural kids don't need any more disadvantages academically.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:03 AM on September 1, 2013 [42 favorites]



Not to be a dick about this, but the busses are there because it's not at all clear that it would be possible for kids to get to school with their parents and/or neighbors and poorer/rural kids don't need any more disadvantages academically.


Eh? So far as I can tell, school bus services mostly cover upper class suburbs. Inner city kids are more likely to ride the municipal transit lines.
posted by ocschwar at 10:07 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


In large parts of the country school buses are the only buses.
posted by octothorpe at 10:08 AM on September 1, 2013 [70 favorites]


Having been in America for 24 years, I remain of the opinion that it's insane to have a fleet of buses that make at most 4 runs a day, that are filled only with children. Children should ride the same buses as their parents and neighbors. It's part of the civilizing process.

Adults usually don't take buses unless they live in a major city. In the suburbs and rural areas adults are usually driving to work.
posted by rainydayfilms at 10:08 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would hate being followed around in a store by a "personal shopper." Are they suspecting me of being a shoplifter? Do they want a tip for holding the clothes? Am I an asshole if they "help" me try on 20 outfits and I only bought one or none?

The pushiest sales guy I ever met was in a Lush bath store and I was idly standing next to the big blocks of bar soap, and a sales guy came over to me, picked up one of the big blocks and said, "hey, let's smell this together!" and then he started leaning his cheek in towards mine and shoving the block of soap towards our faces.

Usually I am very polite about shutting sales people down ("I'm actually just looking, but I'll come find you especially if I have a question"), but this guy I was a little ruder.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:09 AM on September 1, 2013 [14 favorites]


In large parts of the country school buses are the only buses.


Because there's this inane idea that we should run these bus lines and not allow adults to pay to use them.
posted by ocschwar at 10:12 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I really like this list - and find it interesting that he thinks that anyone can buy anything. It's true that in India there is a stark contrast between rich and poor that is immediately obvious. I can see that it may not be so clear who is economically advantaged in the US. Of course, those of us who grew up in the US can tell by very subtle markers (how expensive clothes and accessories are, for example. Maybe the make of someone's car). But generally we are all wearing jeans and driving sedans.

It's true that in major cities like Mumbai there are slums literally next to luxury hotels, which would not happen in the US, but even if he was exposed to a US slum I think he would find it very different from the lifestyle of poor people in India.
posted by rainydayfilms at 10:14 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Small US retailers used to be the same way, before they were shut down by the big chains. You'd walk in, and the shopkeeper or one of their clerks would attend you every moment, offering advice, helping you try on and re-shelve items.

You obviously never shopped in the rural and exurban south. There the norm would be that unless the owner/clerk knew you, they'd just glare balefully at you as you came in and that you were welcome to deal with the store's selection of stuff that the owner last thought about in 1974 yourself. And that's if you were white.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:23 AM on September 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's worth pointing out that many parts of the world are either quite deforested, or have climates less well suited for the use of timber. But in the US timber is relatively cheap and fast.
posted by wotsac at 10:26 AM on September 1, 2013


Because there's this inane idea that we should run these bus lines and not allow adults to pay to use them.

Allow adults to pay to use schoolbuses...? They're not a normal bus line, going through useful places. They go around suburban/rural residential areas transporting kids twice a day to/from school. Where I've lived they rarely drive past anywhere an adult would be interested in visiting. Turning them into some kind of totally public transport system would involve a huge expansion of operating to cover significantly more times and routes. As it is, it's a modest and reasonable system. More places need public transport but I don't think it'd make a lot of sense for that system to come from the public education side of things.

There would probably also be many safety concerns - warranted or not - about allowing random adults into a space primarily intended to independently transport children as young as six to/from school.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:27 AM on September 1, 2013 [15 favorites]


if you're thin, you're statistically likely to be rich. Reason why I know this is that I went down from being 210lbs to 148-150lbs. The way people started treating me when I was thin was generally way better than the way I was treated when I was fat.

*blinks perplexedly*
posted by scody at 10:28 AM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Probably worth noting nearly all "brick" houses in the us are actually wood framed with brick facede / siding; it is very rare to find a recently built brick home in which the bricks actually support the roof.
posted by localroger at 10:30 AM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Having been in America for 24 years, I remain of the opinion that it's insane to have a fleet of buses that make at most 4 runs a day, that are filled only with children. Children should ride the same buses as their parents and neighbors. It's part of the civilizing process.

Here in Oakland that is exactly what kids do: all public school kids get an AC transit pass. However, this is possible only because the existing bus lines have decent coverage. You couldn't do this in the rural area I grew up in. As for the "civilizing process", many Oakland schoolkids come from very poor neighborhoods and ride the bus with their parents and neighbors already. Generally though, I agree that public transit is an important part of understanding the community you live in. That's one of the reasons that private bus fleets to Silicon Valley annoy me: it's the equivalent of living in a gated community that has a mobile component and makes living in the Big City tolerable for people who wouldn't ride any bus with homeless or crazy or poor people on it.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:31 AM on September 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


New England, where asking for help in a store is considered a personal weakness.

I love this about New England compared to other parts of the country, because I'm conditioned into (perhaps wrongly and paranoiacally) thinking that "Hi! Can I help you?" is code for "You dirty backpack-wearing youngish person! I see that you are here and baselessly suspect you of shoplifting!" or "In my role as a person whose job it is to sell you stuff, I am like a shark, and your blood is in the water.".
posted by kengraham at 10:33 AM on September 1, 2013 [23 favorites]


You don't spit in a junior high girl's hair, or grab her books, when a random adult is sitting right by you.

If you actually HAVE read past mefi posts about school bus rides then you should know that the random adults would also be targets. Their presence would not magically induce a state of simple human decency in the subset of shitty kids determined to be shitty.
posted by elizardbits at 10:35 AM on September 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


"random adults would also be targets"?

How would I know a hypothetical that the system does not allow to put to the test?

I know from riding the bus to school in Chicago and Tel Aviv, and sharing my MBTA ride in Boston with many local BPS students, that no, in fact, the casual cruelty kids have for each other is set aside for a later day when grownups are watching.
posted by ocschwar at 10:41 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having been in America for 24 years, I remain of the opinion that it's insane to have a fleet of buses that make at most 4 runs a day, that are filled only with children.

In the school district I grew up in, starting times and ending times were staggered so that the buses had time to make three different runs in the morning and again in the afternoon (high school first, then middle, then elementary) and also frequently did field trips during the day.
posted by ambrosia at 10:41 AM on September 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Which leads me to the next criticism: schools located far out of town. In the rest of the world, the school is by each village or town center, and when the afternoon bell strikes, the pupils have to run another gauntlet of the civilizing influences of the adult world.

Having spent a ton of time in rural Georgia, this would not work. There are miles between homes and small town centers. Add in that public transportation in the US varies from superb to communities actively scornful of it and it's just a bit mess. Dedicated school buses actually make sense in a low common denominator way.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:43 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you think the poor in India do not have it worse materially by a gigantic measure you are incorrect.

Yeah. It's... really bad. At least in many parts of the country. like Rio de Janeiro bad.
posted by Justinian at 10:46 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


School buses are simply a symptom of a much larger issue. Another one is massive traffic jams composed of large cars containing a single person.

Near as I can see, the car companies conspired to have public transportation destroyed in large parts of America, which at least makes sense from a cui bono? perspective, but then for some reason much of America embraced this destruction and now has great contempt for public transportation, which is part of the same huge madness that has people applauding the destruction of the government and of middle class jobs.

What's interesting is that I now no longer believe that this attitude in unfixable. What happened? My 60+ year old father-in-law. He's a conservative Christian, he owned at least one car continuously for almost 50 years. Well, the in-laws just spent a year in Hong Kong (where my mother-in-law, also very conservative, is teaching), and he told us recently, "I can't imagine owning a car again"(!)

If he can change, anyone can. I now believe that most Americans, once exposed to good public transportation (and socialized medicine for that matter), would embrace them in the drop of a hat. I really believe now that the only reason Americans don't like these is that they've been sold a Big Lie...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:59 AM on September 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


Oh, and I do want to add that I felt that the writer was pretty unbiased in what he reported, that he seems like a nice guy, and that I laughed loudly at this sentence: "Chaturvedi ended his post with a link to a video of "America F--- Yeah" from the movie "Team America.""
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:03 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Missing the tag not-even-wrong.
posted by odinsdream at 11:03 AM on September 1, 2013


lupus_yonderboy: would it make you happy to know that apparently the U.S. might be past peak driving?
posted by Navelgazer at 11:05 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Random thought on portion sizes... I wonder how many foreigners get told that you really aren't expected to eat all of it at restaurants and that it's perfectly acceptable to take some home?
posted by Zalzidrax at 11:09 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


[I deleted a few posts. Please don't go back and edit the content of your post. It only causes confusion.]
posted by vacapinta at 11:13 AM on September 1, 2013


Probably worth noting nearly all "brick" houses in the us are actually wood framed with brick facede / siding;

That only applies to newer houses, most of pre-war brick houses are all brick. My house doesn't even have studs;the plaster was smeared right over the inside of the brick walls.

posted by octothorpe at 11:13 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Living hundreds of thousands of miles from one's parents and other relatives is weird.

I'll say.
posted by aws17576 at 11:19 AM on September 1, 2013 [15 favorites]


I wonder how many foreigners get told that you really aren't expected to eat all of it at restaurants and that it's perfectly acceptable to take some home?

This foreigner figured it out pretty quickly when she attended a week of classes in an Ohio suburb years ago. Order a standard meal for supper at the chain restaurant next to the hotel, eat half of it, and bring in the leftovers for lunch the next day.

(Sub-category of odd things about Americans and food that may be Ohio-suburb-centric: surprises and disappointments for those of us who like strong tea with lots of milk. "Tea" without the word "hot" attached to it will get you iced tea (sweetened or unsweetened). "Milk" is not available in many office break rooms or even moderately priced local restaurants: "powdered non-dairy creamer" is ubiquitous. And when you order "tea with lots of milk" in a slightly better chain restaurant, and the waitress brings a large glass of iced tea and a large glass of milk, you have to admit that's exactly what you asked for.)
posted by maudlin at 11:20 AM on September 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yeah, wrt school buses -- I live closer to my kid's school than I do to the nearest metro bus stop, and that bus only runs twice an hour at the time that school lets out. And come to think of it, the school is even farther from the bus stop than our house -- and getting to the bus stop requires crossing not one but two major arterial roads. Whereas the school bus stops literally at the end of my cul-de-sac. Not really seeing how the metro bus would be better, here.
posted by KathrynT at 11:21 AM on September 1, 2013


(Sub-category of odd things about Americans and food that may be Ohio-suburb-centric: surprises and disappointments for those of us who like strong tea with lots of milk. "Tea" without the word "hot" attached to it will get you iced tea (sweetened or unsweetened).

That is... not normal, to me. At least here in Philadelphia, asking for "Tea" will result in hot tea. Or, more accurately, a listing of available types of tea, often with an apology for limited selection if there are less than 4-ish types available. Admittedly, this is also a city without a lot of chain restaurants in it, so I don't know how more chainy areas might vary? Regardless, here, unqualified "tea" is hot.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:29 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't help but wonder how different it might be if oschwar's observations about the kids not being separated from general public life at an earlier age than high school. I would have loved to be around the regular world on a daily basis as a kid instead of sequestered with my same age group all day.
posted by yoga at 11:30 AM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Suitability of metro bus services for student transportation probably varies pretty widely. FWIW, I share morning city bus rides with students from a couple different high schools and see no problems with the students doing that; they're certainly a lot more civilized about it than my peers and I were at that age on a dedicated school bus. (We were awful.) For all I know the afternoon bus rides home are more raucous, though. I imagine there are fewer adults riding when school lets out, and those adults are probably not as likely to be regular commuters taking the same route every day. Knowing that not only have you got adults around who are not interested in putting up with your shit but that you'll have to deal with the same adults day after day probably curbs everything beyond a bit of teenaged mouthiness.
posted by asperity at 11:30 AM on September 1, 2013


"Which leads me to the next criticism: schools located far out of town"

You're making these generalizations about the entire US that are based upon whatever narrow experience you've had in the US, when in fact the usage of school buses is a historically contingent convention that dates from long, long before the existence of suburbs or when the majority of the US population was urban.

You're making judgments about what makes sense based upon the particular urban/suburban communities you have in mind and, sure, it would certainly make sense to do things differently in those communities. But every small and medium sized town in the US has school buses and they have schools that are not "far out of town" but, in fact, they often have students who live outside of town, where the buses will run, and getting those children to school in any kind of weather is the priority. That priority would conflict with running any sort of public transit system with those buses, which as someone else mentioned is absurd and impractical for numerous other reasons.

The schoolbuses serve a particular service in a context that is distinct from European villages or large cities. They have very little to do with suburbs, although they exist in the US suburbs, and they have very little to do with the urban cores of the largest east coast cities, where kids always walked to school or, later, take the subway and other public transit. They're about the whole rest of the early-through-middle twentieth century America of small and mid-sized cities and small towns and rural communities. And while somewhat over half of the population of the US now lives in fairly large metropolitan areas, most of the smaller cities and towns still exist.

There's a whole infrastructure, social and legal and industrial, that supports schoolbuses and there's the weight of long, long tradition. The use of schoolbuses in some random suburb isn't some solution for transporting children ex nihilo.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:30 AM on September 1, 2013 [22 favorites]


"I'll say."

That was a typo of "or". In case you actually thought I meant "hundreds of thousands".
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:32 AM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure people are really getting the shopping thing. If you go out shopping in India as a middle class person there will be plenty of dirt-poor people around happy to do just about anything for you for pennies. You do not have to carry your own bags or load them into the car, drive the car, etc. if you want someone to do all of your shopping while you have a manicure and a tailor takes your measurements to create a perfectly fitting set of clothes, ready when you are, it's easily done. Etc. It really isn't like having a "personal shopper", keen salesperson, or similar, at all.
posted by iotic at 11:32 AM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't know what planet he's on when it comes to integrity, honestly.


What part of India are you comparing your impressions of American integrity and honesty to?
posted by Cosine at 11:36 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I totally get what he's saying about rest stops. I drove from Delhi to Agra (only a 4-6 hour drive) and while there are "rest stops" they are generally quite dismal affairs. Like, maybe there's a poorly-lit restaurant where lukewarm bottles of Coke cost four times what you'd pay in the city and and there's a souvenir table with a bunch of second-hand paperback books and some plastic elephants.

And yes the poverty in India is breathtaking for most westerners. You really can't prepare yourself, there is nowhere in North America with poverty like that.

I also spent some time (it was a work trip) in corporate offices at some airlines and the caste/class stuff was hard to ignore. It's pretty well baked in.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:39 AM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


sorry, that was the voice of an annoyed adjunct who has syllabi stress:

namely, in terms of the incomplete/not cheating thing. Of the various cases of plagiarism I have had, I can think of two cases where I was close to certain that the student was knew full well what they were doing in terms of busting the rules and lying about it. They were both American students.

But, it's stupid of me to extrapolate from my own experience to make a statement when this guy probably knows more than I do. He just seemed to have sort of a sheltered take on the kind of fuckery that can go on in the classroom. But I could be poisoned by cynicism.
posted by angrycat at 11:45 AM on September 1, 2013


"(Sub-category of odd things about Americans and food that may be Ohio-suburb-centric: surprises and disappointments for those of us who like strong tea with lots of milk. 'Tea' without the word 'hot' attached to it will get you iced tea (sweetened or unsweetened)."

I don't know exactly what the regionalism of this is; I did some cursory searching and nothing turned up. I know that all of the southwest, south, at least a large portion of the midwest, and southern California, at least, are primarily oriented toward iced tea and not hot tea. It may well have to do with non-winter temperatures being hot and making an iced drink more appealing — iced tea is very inexpensive and enjoyable even when it's made from crappy tea. In the south it's almost always sweetened and is "sweet tea", but in other iced-tea-centric areas, it will usually come unsweetened and you sweeten it (or not) to your personal taste. In all these areas the norm is what you describe: "tea" will be interpreted as iced tea; if you want hot tea, you'll have to specify it and it will likely be abysmal relative to what you're used to if you come from a tea-intensive culture, like the UK.

I'd say that pretty much all restaurants will have milk, but by default they'll give you the "creamer" that is used for coffee. Offices and the like, however, won't have milk and will likely only have the ingredients associated with coffee.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:48 AM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I assume it's universally understood but his comments on how the way one is treated being tied to their weight (and general appearance) are painfully accurate.

As someone who has been many different weights over the years it is heartbreaking to be treated, and see others treated, like gum on a shoe for being the wrong weight.

In the hip part of downtown where I live a homeless dude will get better treatment in a shop than an obese person.

My best friend is thin, handsome and athletic... he thinks EVERY store/restaurant has amazingly good service...
posted by Cosine at 11:48 AM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


You were awful because you didn't have a camera pointed at you, which all school buses have now.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:50 AM on September 1, 2013


I assume it's universally understood but his comments on how the way one is treated being tied to their weight (and general appearance) are painfully accurate.

I (British) did not know this, it's something I've learned from this thread. I recently lost a fair amount of weight and there is no difference in how I'm treated in shops etc, here.
posted by iotic at 11:53 AM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


As someone who has been many different weights over the years it is heartbreaking to be treated, and see others treated, like gum on a shoe for being the wrong weight.

Rules for being treated well:

1) Be Attractive.
2) Don't Be Unattractive.
posted by Justinian at 12:00 PM on September 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


There is a big component of sexism as well. It is much much worse for overweight women.

I'm not even close to thin but I get great service everywhere.I think there is still a lingering image of rich guys constantly feasting on lobster and martinis. In my case it is snack wraps and Snyders honey mustard & onion pretzels but they don't know that. As a man, You just need a nice watch and shoes.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:00 PM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yo... there are people (myself included) who grew up in a town of fewer than 1000 people. These towns have their own elementary and high schools. How the hell are kids going to get to school without school buses? Public transit in an area like that doesn't even make sense-- and if I'm wrong and it does, it's nowhere close to existing in any form that could be taken advantage of currently. Cars suck and all but rural areas do actually exist. And people still go to school there.

Of the various cases of plagiarism I have had, I can think of two cases where I was close to certain that the student was knew full well what they were doing in terms of busting the rules and lying about it. They were both American students.

That is bush league compared to the kind of cheating the author was talking about imo. Having had a lot of friends who teach internationally after college, cheating, plagiarism and weird vague "threats" upon receiving a low grade are par for the course in some classes, in some countries. It's just a different culture of achievement it seems. American students might whine a bit or cheat and some "concerned parents" might call in but there does seem to be a different sense of entitlement-- I think in America that kind of behavior is perceived as weak and pitiful. Not like, assertive and competitive. I don't know, it was a big culture shock thing for me when I began experiencing it.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:03 PM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've worked in the service industry for seven years, and I'm always suspicious of thin, good-looking customers and am probably unconsciously rude to them, so you're welcome.

(Kind of kidding.)
posted by stoneandstar at 12:05 PM on September 1, 2013


If he can change, anyone can. I now believe that most Americans, once exposed to good public transportation (and socialized medicine for that matter), would embrace them in the drop of a hat.

Genuine question-- I've heard a lot of people say Chicago has a great public transit system. I moved here about five years ago, and am ready to never set foot on a bus or train again. I went from absolutely hating driving and avoiding it whenever possible to wishing constantly that I had a car and driving everywhere when I go home on vacation because it's such a thrill. I like the sense of privacy and safety, the ability to get around in the wee hours (I work very early in the morning, when waiting at a bus stop isn't super safe), and the fact that most of the time my trip takes about half as long as it would on transit. (For instance, 30 minutes rather than two hours.) It depends on traffic, of course, and car accidents are still rather scary, and maintaining a car is a pain, but. Does Chicago actually have good public transit in a global sense, or is it just good for car-oriented America?
posted by stoneandstar at 12:11 PM on September 1, 2013


I'm not even close to thin but I get great service everywhere.

It's because height is the primary metric men are judged on rather than weight as with women. Which is a problem since you have even less control over your height!
posted by Justinian at 12:12 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The mentions of cheating among many students in other countries and cultures reminds me of when I took a botany class when I started grad school. There was a student doing a semester abroad, and she was from Austria. During our first mid-term exam (which the professor was famous for giving epic essay-only tests that took 3+hrs to finish), he left the room for a few minutes. Most of the class was grad students, people in their 30s, and the moment the professor left she asked her nearest neighbors what they were writing for question three. Everyone's eyes grew and no one said anything to her until after class.

Afterwards she said "oh, in Austria we help each other on exams when we can, it's no big deal over there" and we had to explain that all the grad students take exams super seriously and she understood, though it boggled my mind then (and now).
posted by mathowie at 12:17 PM on September 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


less control over your height!

Not with these stilts I don't!
posted by The Whelk at 12:19 PM on September 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's because height is the primary metric men are judged on rather than weight as with women.

True, but I'd say it basically boils down to: how far you deviate from norms. As a somewhat tall guy, I have been to stores and ignored, as has my very short wife. I've heard larger women say the same regardless of their height. If you deviate too far from the mean, the staff aren't used to seeing customers that are large or very tall or very small and it's more about getting attention when you're closer to the averages.
posted by mathowie at 12:22 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I frequently have people ask me whether I need anything - and sometimes even follow me around making suggestions - and I have to deliberately ask them to leave me alone.

No, but it's just very different - he is right there. I remember for example shopping in Korea versus shopping in the US. When I was shopping in Korea, the girls in the store (I say girls because of cultural expectations around maturity, not because sexism - girls that would have been "big sister" rather than "auntie") always were really, really personal in helping. Coming in the dressing room, helping me get things on, giggling about my breast size, making suggestions as to what colors or styles would be best for me, asking me exactly what I was looking for "Are you looking to catch a boyfriend? Dress for an important job?" and just being thoroughly involved in the whole process. I have never in the US had that level of attention being in a store. Not even in a wedding dress store, which is probably the highest level I've gotten.
posted by corb at 12:25 PM on September 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


That is... not normal, to me. At least here in Philadelphia, asking for "Tea" will result in hot tea.

Down south, there are three kinds of tea. Hot tea, unsweet tea, and tea. I'll let you figure out the characteristics of "tea."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:27 PM on September 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Probably worth noting nearly all "brick" houses in the us are actually wood framed with brick facede / siding; it is very rare to find a recently built brick home in which the bricks actually support the roof.

I think building code (in the US) these days generally won't let decorative brick (as opposed to cinder-block) masonry be load-bearing. We did a home renovation and have rock columns 2.5 feet square. They had to have a wooden beam up the center as the load-bearing member. It's likely this varies locally due to geology (e.g. likelihood of earthquakes, hurricanes etc.).
posted by achrise at 12:33 PM on September 1, 2013


Near as I can see, the car companies conspired to have public transportation destroyed in large parts of America, which at least makes sense from a cui bono? perspective, but then for some reason much of America embraced this destruction and now has great contempt for public transportation, which is part of the same huge madness that has people applauding the destruction of the government and of middle class jobs.

In much of the country, use of public transit, like union membership, became a huge and unspoken class marker at some point.
posted by dilettante at 12:37 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think building code (in the US) these days generally won't let decorative brick (as opposed to cinder-block) masonry be load-bearing.

It's a combination of that (wood has much better tensile strength in a catastrophe like a hurricane or earthquake) and that load-bearing masonry is five times as massive and expensive as decorative masonry. In most of the world, though, a "brick" house is a masonry house where the masonry supports the roof. In the US, that hasn't been the norm since the 19th century.

This isn't to say that a modern US brick home doesn't have advantages, though; I live in one and appreciate its extra resistance to fire and vermin.
posted by localroger at 12:40 PM on September 1, 2013


About the school bus thing - I love public transportation and stuff (I am absolutely giddy about the light rail station the will be two blocks from my house) but I grew up on a dirt road three miles away from a school in a town with 350 people. Most of my classmates were farm kids, and we were scattered about the countryside miles away from school. That was elementary school. Our high school was fifteen miles away, and served more small towns and farm kids.

For sparsely populated areas like this, public transit wouldn't be a feasible option. Building the school "closer" isn't an option, because there is nothing to be closer to.

If there weren't school buses, there would have been a lot of kids who couldn't have gotten to school at all. It's like that all over the country. Fortunately, because of these strange yellow buses, every kid gets a chance to go to school, even kids from the middle of nowhere.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:44 PM on September 1, 2013 [12 favorites]


Though one of the things I know really blows people away about the United States is how big it really is, and how far away things are sometimes.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:49 PM on September 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


Does Chicago actually have good public transit in a global sense, or is it just good for car-oriented America?

I think since everyone uses public transport in urban Europe, the proportion of dangerous people, weirdos and creepers is relatively low. That proportion is higher in Chicago because a smaller percentage of the overall population uses transit, and the people who do use it are more likely to be from poor/high crime neighborhoods. I certainly felt much safer on the Paris metro than I did on the Green Line in Chicago (I lived in Oak Park).

Still, I sure wish we had a Chicago-style transit system in Milwaukee, but a big part of the reason we don't is because the suburbs don't want an easy way for poor people (read: black) to get there.
posted by desjardins at 1:11 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Serving Sizes: American serving sizes are HUGE!

I'm an expat living in Japan, and this is a truth that just smacks me upside the head every time I go back home to visit and go to a restaurant. Portions are indeed incredibly huge, and even counting for saved food that goes in a doggie bag, this ties up to his other point that there is a shitload of wasted food.
posted by zardoz at 1:22 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sorry to belabor a point, but I hope it brings some understanding.

Here's a comparison of the state I grew up in, Wisconsin, with Israel, in terms of size.

Of course, there are many urban areas, but much of the state is sparsely populated. The same is true for much of the country - here is a relative population density map. As you can see, in many areas the population is very spread out.

But we still get all those kids to school, or we try to, at least. That's a really good thing.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:27 PM on September 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Though one of the things I know really blows people away about the United States is how big it really is, and how far away things are sometimes.

A former coworker mentioned this to me. "If I wanted to go to Italy for the day, I could just get in the car and drive for an hour. Here, you drive for days and days and it's still America!"
posted by Mister Moofoo at 1:33 PM on September 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Although my favorite US size comparison moment comes from Tumblr



faensoundslikefun: My bro just came prancing into my room with a Burger King crown. We don’t have Burger King in Belgium. He drove all the way to the Netherlands.


faensoundslikefun: help this wasn’t supposed to be such a popular post


deductionswiththedoctor:its funnier to americans because in Europe you can just dive to another country for burger king

I like the idea that a Burger King crown is a precious artifact in Belgium

posted by louche mustachio at 1:33 PM on September 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


This far into the thread and no one mentioned The Inscrutable Americans? Buy it for a penny on Amazon - it'll be a penny well spent. (Sorry about the 3.99 shipping.)

Wikipedia plot summary.

The article is more or less a straight distillation of the book - except the book had more hankering for those missing promiscuous American girls, if I remember right...
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:34 PM on September 1, 2013


Yeah, I live in a zip code with more cows than people. The nearest public transit is ~15 miles away. Even taxi cabs refuse to come out here. But my neighbors' kids can still get to/from school thanks to school buses.

Unless you think farmers and other residents of rural communities should be prohibited from having kids or their kids should go uneducated, I don't see how you're going to get rid of the school bus in the U.S.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:35 PM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


A former coworker of mine lived in Spain one year. When his friends from Spain came over they had a huge list of places in America they wanted to see. And keep in mind, my coworker lived in Minneapolis. They flipped out when he crossed out about two thirds of their list. When it took them two days to get to Yellowstone, they were in shock. Then he drove them to the Grand Canyon and Vegas. By then they were so tired of driving they begged to fly back to MN. It's a big fucking country kids.
posted by Ber at 1:40 PM on September 1, 2013 [17 favorites]


It's a big fucking country kids.

Yeah, seriously. The US and Canada are each approximately the area of Europe.

Mind you, we North Americans tend to feel the same way about Africa (equal to area of the US, Canada, and Europe combined, with a population to match), so it kind of evens out.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:12 PM on September 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


"By then they were so tired of driving they begged to fly back to MN. It's a big fucking country kids."

Where else is it comparable in both size and the distribution of the population?

I can't quite decide if Canada is comparable because you've basically got 2/3 of the population in southern Quebec and Ontario. British Columbia with the major city of Vancouver is an enormous distance away, but then in my experience Canadians don't zip back and forth from Vancouver and the east all the time. I dunno.

And Russia is incredibly huge, but the population is almost all in the western fifth, so most everything is within about, oh, 800 miles.

China is almost exactly comparable in size, although most of the population is in the eastern half. So, basically, about 2,000 miles.

Australia is huge, but almost everyone is on the southwest coast; so within about 1,200 miles. Same with Brazil.

I sort of think that a larger portion of the population here regularly travels longer distances than pretty much anyone, anywhere else.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:12 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't quite decide if Canada is comparable because you've basically got 2/3 of the population in southern Quebec and Ontario. British Columbia with the major city of Vancouver is an enormous distance away, but then in my experience Canadians don't zip back and forth from Vancouver and the east all the time. I dunno.

Not comparable at all, no. Same size, 1/10th the population. That said, there is a middle, you know! (Vancouver is no more "major" than Winnipeg, and barely more than half the size of Calgary)

(Also, people in foreign countries saying to visiting Canadians "Oh, I love Canada! I've been to Vancouver!" is most definitely a thing, and it is hilarious. Vancouver is nothing at all like the rest of Canada.)
posted by Sys Rq at 2:19 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Vancouver is no more 'major' than Winnipeg"

Really? I thought it was a lot bigger. Huh. *looks it up* Smaller than Calgary and Edmonton. (And Mississauga!) I bet Mississauga, Edmonton, and Winnipeg are pretty peeved about all the press Vancouver gets.

"Vancouver is nothing at all like the rest of Canada"

Yeah, that was my impression. Toronto and Vancouver (the two Canadian cities I've visited) are very different. Vancouver is totally that pacific northwest culture; more in common with Seattle and Portland than the other large Canadian cities. I thought it was pretty awesome. I liked Toronto, too. But I liked Vancouver more.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:28 PM on September 1, 2013


My four trips to Canada were, from west to east: Vancouver / drive up to Whistler, Calgary / drive up to Whistler, Point Pelee wine country with side trip to the better side of Niagara Falls, and Montreal / scenic Quebec.

Seriously, it's like visiting four different countries where in two of them people say "Eh" a lot, one nearly everyone is Chinese, and the other nearly everyone speaks French as a first language.
posted by localroger at 2:31 PM on September 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


But I liked Vancouver more.

Yes, I don't blame foreigners for visiting Vancouver. If you're going to one Canadian city, that's the one to pick. It's not really an accurate representation of the whole country, though.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:33 PM on September 1, 2013


Anyway: Britisherists do Walmart
posted by Sys Rq at 2:39 PM on September 1, 2013


Beyond rural areas and small towns with regards to school buses, in large growing cities, neighbourhoods have life cycles. The neighbourhood I grew up in was built in the late 70s/early 80s. The bulk of the people who moved in were young couples or couples with very young children. By 1985, it had loads of children roughly kindergarten age; very few at high school age. By 1995, this was reversed. By 2005, there were few children of any age. Over the long run, this evens out some, but the first generation or two into an area produce a very strong demand for schools in a short peak.

One solution is to build a pant load of schools that then sit half empty forever, another solution is to bus some kids around in cheese wagons. The second is actually more efficient.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 2:39 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


About ten years ago, there was a weird things about America thread on a forum I read, and while a lot were probably accurate, some of the observations were really odd.

One particularly angry Canadian was going on and on about how Americans were always eating stale flavored popcorn, it was impossible to buy cheese in America, we had no public trashcans, and on weekends, we would all gather in parking lots drinking cheap beer until we vomited on the ground.

Now, I will give him 1 Nostradamus point for predicting the availability of stale flavored popcorn, but at the time he said that, I'd only seen popcorn like that sold for school fundraisers in those big novelty tins that people would buy out of obligation.

But then I realized that this guy hadn't gotten very far into America, so his experiences were limited to some apparently economically depressed areas in the midwest, and probably associating with mostly teenagers. (Seriously, hanging out in parking lots and vomiting?) You cannot overstate the size difference. I'm American, and I've lived in a lot of different geographic areas, but there are plenty of places in the US that are also pretty foreign to me.

And the cheese thing is a pretty common perception probably because processed cheese food is called "American cheese," but as a teenager, a bunch of us got together to buy a block of Velveeta for an exchange student who was always telling jokes about it, and of about five of us, I think two of us had never had it before, and it took us a REALLY LONG TIME to even find it in the store, because none of us realized it wasn't refrigerated.
posted by ernielundquist at 2:40 PM on September 1, 2013 [5 favorites]



About the school bus thing - I love public transportation and stuff (I am absolutely giddy about the light rail station the will be two blocks from my house) but I grew up on a dirt road three miles away from a school in a town with 350 people. Most of my classmates were farm kids, and we were scattered about the countryside miles away from school. That was elementary school. Our high school was fifteen miles away, and served more small towns and farm kids.

For sparsely populated areas like this, public transit wouldn't be a feasible option. Building the school "closer" isn't an option, because there is nothing to be closer to.


And absolutely none of this has anything to do with whether or not an adult should be allowed to hail a school bus at a school bus stop, pay a fee, and board it.

Your town either has the schools in the middle of town, if they are pre 1960's vintage. In which case, the school buses have a route that would be useful to adults too.

Or it has the schools on the edge of town, in which case, yes, they are not very useful. And the schools are even worse when it comes to walling off the kids in a different world from the adults, in many ways a worse one.
posted by ocschwar at 2:47 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Girls are not very promiscuous, contrary to most Hollywood films

I like to imagine he paused after typing this and gave a little sigh.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:47 PM on September 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


And the cheese thing is a pretty common perception probably because processed cheese food is called "American cheese," but as a teenager, a bunch of us got together to buy a block of Velveeta for an exchange student who was always telling jokes about it.

Please understand that unrefrigerated Velveeta is also way down in Maslow's hierarchy.
posted by iotic at 2:48 PM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Your town either has the schools in the middle of town, if they are pre 1960's vintage. In which case, the school buses have a route that would be useful to adults too.

I'm not trying to insult you, but have you been to rural America?
posted by desjardins at 3:07 PM on September 1, 2013 [21 favorites]


Your town either has the schools in the middle of town, if they are pre 1960's vintage. In which case, the school buses have a route that would be useful to adults too.

Or it has the schools on the edge of town, in which case, yes, they are not very useful. And the schools are even worse when it comes to walling off the kids in a different world from the adults, in many ways a worse one.


What are you talking about? I've lived up and down the East coast all my life and this either/or description matches nothing I've ever seen. Schools are usually placed in particular parts of a city, based on the population of neighborhoods, not in the middle or on the edges. They also tend to change a bit every year, as the number of students at a particular stop changes, families move etc.

You have maybe lived in America for 24 years, but it doesn't sound like you understand that variations exist which do not match your imagined scenario or even that schools buses function differently than public transportation. The former is all about getting x number of kids at x number of stops to school by x time. Throwing a public transportation role in there completely mucks up that role.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:13 PM on September 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


Middle and edge don't really any meaning when applied to most suburbs I've known. They're usually just a big undifferentiated sprawl in all directions with schools placed at random wherever the district could find and afford land to build them.
posted by octothorpe at 3:17 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Exactly. In my experience, if a school's on the edge of town, it's because a) there's no room in town to build another school, and/or b) the area around the school has been newly rezoned as residential and is in the process of being developed.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:24 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've lived in some New England towns where the school-in-the-center-of-town thing is more or less true, and kids are bussed in from the country.

I've also lived in towns where the main high school was kind of in the middle of nowhere and the kids were bussed in from surrounding hamlets.

In older suburbs I've lived in, the kids mostly made use of the public transit that served the suburb. Ditto for cities, but I've never lived in a big sprawly city, just more...concentrated ones, so I don't know how it works in sprawly cities (e.g. LA vs San Francisco or DC or Boston).
posted by rtha at 3:33 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was one Australian woman who was corrected by several people who just didn't get it, still pretty much was sure that obese and non-obese alike were just lazy because where she's from disabled people don't use electric carts.

I assume you are reffering to what we call mobility scooters here in Australia? That woman was an idiot; tonnes of people (including disabled, very obese, and especially old people) use them here...
posted by smoke at 3:51 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you're going to one Canadian city, that's the one to pick.

Pffft, only if Montreal is closed.
posted by kengraham at 3:51 PM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Your town either has the schools in the middle of town, if they are pre 1960's vintage. In which case, the school buses have a route that would be useful to adults too. 

Most of the pre 60s schools I can think of are in residential areas near the centre of town, a 20-45 minute walk from the central business district, which isn't all that appealing from a transit perspective. But that's not the main reason school buses are not useful to adults.

The buses arrive at 9 AM and leave at 3:30 PM, and I don't know anyone who works those hours. (If you walk to and from the CBD, it's more like 9:30 to 3.) On the other hand, t that's a very long time for shopping, medical appointments, etc. But that's not the main reason school buses are not useful to adults.

The main reason school buses are not useful to adults is that the seats are all full with children. It's actually a pretty efficient system that works well; it's not some sort of blind spot that cash strapped school boards continually overlook for some odd reason.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 3:52 PM on September 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Even ignoring school locations and assuming that there are plenty of other businesses and locations convenient enough to a school location to be worth traveling to on a school bus, the scheduling alone means it's only really useful for adults also working on a school schedule. That is, teachers at that school. Except they usually get there earlier and leave later than the students, so it's still not very helpful for them.
posted by asperity at 3:52 PM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Your town either has the schools in the middle of town

*falls off chair laughing*

she was talking about a town of 350 people

in the kind of area she's talking about, the social network and school districts are township sized, which out in the midwest would be 36 sq miles or more - and that's assuming there's only one township in the school district - it could be 2 or 3 townships

i live in a county of about 230k people, which isn't really that rural and several of the outlying school districts cover more than one township's worth of territory

one of those has the high school and middle school in one town and the elementary school in another town 7 miles away

and being able to flag down the school bus to take you where you're going isn't going to help - if you're going to work, odds are you're going to work outside of the school district in the nearest sizable city, because that's where the jobs are - 10, 20, 30 miles or more away - and the local school buses aren't going to take you there
posted by pyramid termite at 3:54 PM on September 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yes, I don't blame foreigners for visiting Vancouver. If you're going to one Canadian city, that's the one to pick.

Not Thunder Bay? I have been cruelly misinformed.
posted by Area Man at 4:03 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


How much would it cost to add fare boxes to school busses?
posted by Area Man at 4:04 PM on September 1, 2013


ocschwar, I'm a suburb-disliker, a proponent of the elimination of cars, and I'm sympathetic to the idea that, if one is not an actual farmer, one should get oneself to a major city for all kinds of social and ecological reasons. I also find the age-segregation one sees in most societies, but which is more pronounced in suburban cultures, kind of problematic and sad. However, for reasons that others have already expressed, the idea of school buses as practical public transport for adults in small towns and suburbs is batshit crayons. Hell, the idea of public transport in most such places is totally impractical. If you want to maintain that this itself argues against living in such places, I'm quite ready to agree, but picking on school buses is really bizarre. It's like there's a terrible disease that happens to have one positive symptom, and you've chosen to treat the disease mainly by trying to eliminate that symptom.
posted by kengraham at 4:08 PM on September 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


Vancouver is no more "major" than Winnipeg, and barely more than half the size of Calgary

Going by metropolitan population, Vancouver has 2.3 million people, Calgary 1.2 million, Edmonton 1.1 million, and Winnipeg 730,000. So yes, Vancouver is actually a bigger city. Unless you just meant that the smaller cities spread out over more land and are physically bigger. Vancouver is a dense city for western Canada.
posted by Margalo Epps at 4:25 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having been in America for 24 years, I remain of the opinion that it's insane to have a fleet of buses that make at most 4 runs a day, that are filled only with children. Children should ride the same buses as their parents and neighbors. It's part of the civilizing process.

Not to be a dick about this, but the busses are there because it's not at all clear that it would be possible for kids to get to school with their parents and/or neighbors and poorer/rural kids don't need any more disadvantages academically.


Having rode the actual school bus, I disagree. In what fantasy land did my 1980s suburb have a bus network? Kids all gotta be at school at the exact same time. So dedicated buses work, and they are used for field trips, the late bus for the participants in after school stuff, etc.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:29 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can rent school busses as well. I know because I rode one to and from a wedding in the middle of the summer. I'd probably pay a premium not to have to ride a school bus while wearing a suit ever again.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:34 PM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Having been in America for 24 years, I remain of the opinion that it's insane to have a fleet of buses that make at most 4 runs a day, that are filled only with children. Children should ride the same buses as their parents and neighbors. It's part of the civilizing process.

Having ridden the buses in England, where children often get bus passes, I can assure you that no civilizing whatsoever occurs on public transit buses. What does happen is that adults learn not to ride the buses when school lets out.
posted by srboisvert at 5:16 PM on September 1, 2013 [14 favorites]


Ordering tea. In New Orleans and much of the South, "tea" usually means sweetened iced tea. However at one New Orleans coffee shop, I ordered an Arnold Palmer and received a drink made half from lemonade, half from hot tea. A Hot Palmer, if you will.

They were even thoughtful enough to heat up the lemonade to match the tea's temperature.

In Southern California, what "tea" means often varies by context, e.g. "tea" is more likely to mean "cold unsweetened tea" at lunch and many chain restaurants, more likely to mean "hot tea" at night, or certain types of ethnic food restaurants, like those serving Asian foods.

I typically specify, in the hopes that I will never again be served a Hot Palmer.

posted by Davenhill at 5:28 PM on September 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


Here's a photograph from 1942 of my great-grandfather and the school bus he drove in rural Washington County, Virginia. The bus would take kids in the farm country to rural schools. It originally began years earlier as a horse and wagon affair.
posted by Atreides at 5:31 PM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Numerous people can't understand electric carts and assume almost all users are just lazy. Even those who are not overweight. There was one Australian woman who was corrected by several people who just didn't get it, still pretty much was sure that obese and non-obese alike were just lazy because where she's from disabled people don't use electric carts. (Yes, as a disabled person, this caught my interest.)

Except this is a real thing. With the right paperwork, seniors and the disabled can qualify for a federally-paid-for mobility scooter -- but this has created a moral hazard as for-profit scooter stores have pushed them on people who may not have qualified, to the tune of in one case at least $100 million in fraud, and in toto perhaps 3/4 of a billion.

From a medical and health standpoint, doctors are actually concerned they may get people using scooters who would be better off walking more.

My personal observation is that, yes, just a few years ago these began popping up simply everywhere; and until I became diabetic myself, I didn't think much about how they might be detrimental.

In a similar vein, though, people seem to be arguing about school buses as if it were efficient and economical to serve adults with current land development patterns. Instead, we should concentrate on creating more walkable neighborhoods in the first place, building transit-oriented development, and using form-based codes to keep development focused and compact.
posted by dhartung at 5:40 PM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think at least two people commented on the sound of crickets and frogs at night, which they had previously thought a Hollywood affectation. I'm thinking: what part of the world doesn't have night animals and insects?

When I lived in England, I never heard crickets either. Granted, I lived in the middle of the city but it got to the point where when I watched an American tv show or movie, I would notice the crickets chirping and it would kind of tug at my heartstrings a little because I never heard them there and it reminded me so much of home.

Another thing that they saw on American TV that English people would talk about that I never would have expected: eating food out of Chinese take-out boxes, pudding cups, Solo cups (see this listing on UK Amazon for "Red American Party Cups") and Twinkies.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:46 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Does Chicago actually have good public transit in a global sense, or is it just good for car-oriented America?"

Chicago has a pretty good system, with the caveat that the longest I lived there was about three months (though I did take public transit every day). But you can get to a lot of the city, and I didn't find it any more sketchy than other train systems I've ridden, but I wasn't going to work at weird hours like you were, so I can't speak to that. Somebody above mentioned Paris; when I visited, due to a fucked up series of hostel/hotel cancellations, we ended up on the outskirts of town staying at a Gran Prix themed hotel in a pretty sketchy neighborhood (one of the ones that burned in the riots). For me, taking the Red Line back up from the South Side in Chicago at 3am felt a lot less dangerous.
posted by klangklangston at 5:50 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Party like an American with these iconic Red American Party Cups from bar@drinkstuff! A must have for any party, they offer an all round drinking vessel that can be filled with a generous helping of beer, soda or your special homemade punch! These cups can be disposed of or recycled, meaning less washing up the following morning! As seen in popular American films such as American Pie, Scott Pilgram Vs The World and The A-Team!Dimensions:H 120mm 98mm

120mm Ø 98mm? You guys have a lot to learn about partying like Americans.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:09 PM on September 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


School buses as public transit? It would destroy society. I'll explain.

I don't have kids, but I'm still highly protective of the hypothetical children I didn't want in the first place, as is my right.

And yes, I realize that most adults are perfectly safe around kids. Steven Pinker noted the risk of child abduction, contrary to popular perception, is so low that you could leave your child unattended in a playground for 144,000 years, on average, before it would be abducted. And most children don't live that long. They also tend to wander off. But I digress.

That being said, I'd wager the odds that any given adult who *wanted* to ride a school bus was probably a pedophile would be a large, scary number. Most numbers are, after all. Or if not actual pedophiles, then people without the good sense to avoid a bus load of children in the first place. Imagine the Three Stooges but with more drooling and body odor. I don't want those kinds of people anywhere near my dear Augustus, Cornelia, or Aretha.

Worse, children all around America might see people like them and get it in their young heads that it's okay to be an adult who doesn't own a car. What's not to love? No baths, lots of eye poking, pies flying everywhere. Capitalism would collapse. Then everyone would be forced to ride public school buses. And I don't like kids. Or pies in the face.
posted by Davenhill at 6:11 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


The reviews for American Party Cups are great!

They feel good to hold, nice grip to them, with the ridges around them helps stop slipping, also helps you know how much to fill your cup.. First ridge/line spirits, (from the bottom up) 2nd wine, 3rd beer/soft drink.

Like I said. A lot to learn.

They have the name "SOLO" on the cups packet, these are the ones from the USA... The ones you want

Awesome, we still got the global party cup market on lock.

PERFECT, WOULD DEFINATELY BY MORE IN THE FUTURE......PROBABLY BUY SMALLER SIZES NEXT TIME THOUGH AS THESE ARE QUITE LARGE TO HOLD

Sorry europe, These are the smallest party cups we make. Unless you want "child size".
posted by Ad hominem at 6:21 PM on September 1, 2013 [20 favorites]


So I'm guessing that Europe doesn't have keg parties in the woods?
posted by octothorpe at 6:33 PM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Your town either has the schools in the middle of town, if they are pre 1960's vintage. In which case, the school buses have a route that would be useful to adults too.

Or it has the schools on the edge of town, in which case, yes, they are not very useful. And the schools are even worse when it comes to walling off the kids in a different world from the adults, in many ways a worse one.


Just to add, nothing about the school bus routes in my small town would have been helpful to adults, unless they had school-aged children and worked at the school. My schools were in the "middle of town," where there were approximately 5-10 buildings where people actually worked or shopped-- courthouse, fire station, gas station, school, jail, a couple of random shops. Plus, the buses only ran very early in the morning and in the middle afternoon, so the only thing they really would be useful for would be an 8:00-3:00 workday, unless that just happens to be the length of your excursion.

Most people worked in places all over the town and neighboring towns, where no bus was going from one district to another. Some people worked 20-30 miles away (including me) and that was normal.

I have no idea what you mean by that last part-- I went to school and somehow still socialized with adults. Random adults don't really need to be at school.

If I were an adult and I had a choice to ride a school bus or not, I would choose not. And if I didn't have a choice, I'd be screwed in a lot of ways. As much as my school was in the "center" of town, it really was not a hub to anything-- and logically wouldn't be a hub for transfers to other school districts, even if those schools were in more useful central areas.

I tried being a pedestrian in my childhood town (and neighboring towns) and it was very dangerous, imo. Nothing is really in walking distance and when you do walk, there's no place for you to do so safely-- just roads and hillocks between roads and gravelly paths. You mostly have to walk on the terrain or where cars drive.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:39 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


As an American living in America the weirdest thing to me is that we allow Thunder Bay to grant lake pirates succor in such close proximity to our borders and child buses.
posted by passerby at 6:46 PM on September 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


Prior to living in England for a year I grumbled over frogs and locusts an other night bug serenaders, but after, now I absolutely adore them. In the Surrey town I lived in, the nights were always so silent.
posted by Atreides at 7:01 PM on September 1, 2013


Americans can't conceive of any other approach than yellow school buses, it isn't worth arguing.
Where I live, the bus company (and where I used to live, the government(!) owned bus company) runs special school routes in the morning and afternoon. Kids have a bus pass for free transit. Should they miss the special school bus, they can take the standard routes before or after and walk a bit further.
During the day the buses run different routes, ferrying old people to doctors appointments or young mums to the shops etc.
Before and after the school routes they ferry commuters to and from work and/or train stations etc.
I'm not sure why the USA prefers their buses to be painted yellow and parked all day and weekend, rather than off providing transport options for those in the community that could use them, but they do, and providing evidence that other places do it differently will be answered with attacks that you can't imagine the circumstances and no other approach could possibly work.
posted by bystander at 7:27 PM on September 1, 2013


"Vancouver is no more 'major' than Winnipeg"

Really? I thought it was a lot bigger. Huh. *looks it up* Smaller than Calgary and Edmonton. (And Mississauga!) I bet Mississauga, Edmonton, and Winnipeg are pretty peeved about all the press Vancouver gets.


No.

Population of Greater Calgary Region: 1.2 million

Population of Greater Vancouver Area: 2.3 million
posted by Cosine at 7:32 PM on September 1, 2013


Sorry europe, These are the smallest party cups we make. Unless you want "child size".

The "child size" is, of course, roughly the size of the average two-year-old child if the child were liquefied.

posted by Karlos the Jackal at 7:37 PM on September 1, 2013


There is a school district in northern Minnesota comprised of five schools, and it covers 4,000 square miles. So, you know, mass transit for adults OR kids is a very weird proposition up there (entirely aside from how hard it is to drive a truck -- much less a schoolbus -- up there in the winter).
posted by wenestvedt at 7:39 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


bystander: I'm not sure why the USA prefers their buses to be painted yellow and parked all day and weekend, rather than off providing transport options for those in the community that could use them, but they do, and providing evidence that other places do it differently will be answered with attacks that you can't imagine the circumstances and no other approach could possibly work.
Well, you never know when you're going to need a huge fleet of yellow school busses to not evacuate a drowning city, following a hurricane.

As to the stereotype of "stubborn, blockheaded" American who can't do things as intelligently as [insert condescending foreigner's nationality here]... it's a fair criticism. You know, aside from all of the many examples above that contradict this assertion, or why it would be impractical. But whatever, Americans are plenty guilty of the same (albeit mostly limited to the rare instances we're informed of the existence of a whiny nation outside our borders, say, like a few days after we begin bombing them).

More on topic, American school children are also among the worst at this - both academically, and in terms of their falsely perceived sense of superiority. And yet many of the dumbest and most xenophobic of them go on to lucrative jobs as lobbyists, once they've graduated from congress. And they're the first to want to end public education as we know it - so it all works out. Kind'uv.
posted by Davenhill at 7:55 PM on September 1, 2013


I'm not really understanding why people are insisting that there should be transit (other than school buses) in suburban areas. People who live in the suburbs don't want to ride a bus, that's at least part of why they live out there. Everyone I knew when I lived in the burbs was perfectly happy to drive everywhere. As far as I know, most of my coworkers wouldn't get on a city bus if you put a gun to their heads. They'll bitch about traffic every day but they're not about to do anything other than drive by themselves into and especially out of the city every day.
posted by octothorpe at 8:00 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


If there is a bus available, then some people might choose to not have a second car for infrequent trips, saving thousands of dollars and associated resources.
People below driving age would have access to independent transport. People who are restricted from driving due to medical or recreational reasons (a few beers at a Sunday lunch) have low cost transport alternatives.
Co-workers who prefer to drive are a small category of potential bus passengers.
The buses and infrastructure are in place, the only additional cost is some incremental driver's wages and fuel, and the result is options that might result in less traffic on the roads giving a benefit even to car hungry co-workers.
posted by bystander at 8:07 PM on September 1, 2013


Where I live, the bus company (and where I used to live, the government(!) owned bus company) runs special school routes in the morning and afternoon. Kids have a bus pass for free transit. Should they miss the special school bus, they can take the standard routes before or after and walk a bit further.

There are lots of town or cities in America where there is no bus company in town to run special school routes. If you could let us know how towns in Australia without bus companies operate school buses, that would be more helpful, thanks.

Well, you never know when you're going to need a huge fleet of yellow school busses to not evacuate a drowning city, following a hurricane.

That's a cheap shot, started ad spread by conservative rhetoric.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:09 PM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


As seen in popular American films such as American Pie, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

who is this goofball? Scott Pilgrim was filmed/is set in Toronto! (oh right, the sort of goofball that thinks plastic cups are a cool party accessory.)
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:22 PM on September 1, 2013


Your town either has the schools in the middle of town

*falls off chair laughing*

she was talking about a town of 350 people

in the kind of area she's talking about, the social network and school districts are township sized, which out in the midwest would be 36 sq miles or more - and that's assuming there's only one township in the school district - it could be 2 or 3 townships


Our township is officially 33 square miles. The village is within the town. The school serves our town, and some of the nearby unincorporated communities, which expands the reach of the school somewhat.


The buses would have been of very little use to anyone else.

My father taught at the school for 35 years: he always tried to get to work by 7:00 or 7:30 to prepare for the day, and was often there until well after five, especially if he was coaching basketball or tutoring. The school bus would have been of no use to him, and of less use to my mother, who worked at the post office and had to be at work before 6:00 AM. Most of the people who lived in the area did not work in the village itself: there is a very small main street with a few businesses, but not much else, really. A lot of the people who worked in the village also lived there, so it was easy for them to walk to their job at the bank or the hardware store, since it only took about 15 minutes, tops, to walk from one end of the village to the other.


I'm not sure why the USA prefers their buses to be painted yellow and parked all day and weekend, rather than off providing transport options for those in the community that could use them, but they do, and providing evidence that other places do it differently will be answered with attacks that you can't imagine the circumstances and no other approach could possibly work.

Attacks.. what? I'm using my personal experience as an example to explain that there are different circumstances that make dedicated buses that take children to school a good idea and why a community might need such a thing.

Not every place that uses school buses is a city or a sprawling suburb. Using the buses as hailable public transit would make no sense whatsoever in a rural area because I can't think of anyone who would hail the bus. There really weren't a lot of people wandering up and down Highway 21 looking for a ride, and I'm not sure you want the sort of people that would be doing such a thing sharing transit with your six year old daughter (especially considering the proximity of both a maximum and medium security federal prison.)
During the morning, the bus was full of kids - I don't know if you're thinking that the bus should then spend the day driving around looking for people to pick up, but it wold have been a huge waste of fuel.
We didn't have a public transit system, or a private bus company, because it was a town with 350 people. Not an especially wealthy town, either. Our public transit system was "Hey Jesse, are you going in to town later?" or "Mind if I jump in the back of the pickup?"
posted by louche mustachio at 8:24 PM on September 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


Jesse would totally give you a ride, too. He's a super nice guy.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:27 PM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


/The buses and infrastructure are in place, the only additional cost is some incremental driver's wages and fuel, and the result is options that might result in less traffic on the roads giving a benefit even to car hungry co-workers.

You appear to be labouring under some serious misconceptions about transit. For one thing, your "incremental cost" of labour, fuel and wear represents something like 80% of the cost of public transit. For another, school buses are more efficient at carrying small people - and uncomfortable for grown ups in a suit - because they have smaller seats, a single entry and so on.

In many places with a bit of a transit system, there are additional buses on peak periods to provide more service when it might be needed at a lower cost. These buses are parked during the day. Since we already have some buses parked much of the day, why not make some of them dedicated to the school runs in the peak and use buses specifically designed for that purpose? And if they are painted a bright colour, people know that unsupervised kids are likely to be getting off them.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:32 PM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


School districts with multiple schools can stagger the start and end times. The busses also do routes in the middle of the day for the half-day kindergarten students. They aren't sitting unused, at least where I live.
posted by Area Man at 8:32 PM on September 1, 2013


They don't sit idle on the weekends either. We took school buses all over the state for field trips, for sporting matches, for solo and ensemble and forensics competitions. There were often buses busy on evenings and weekends.

OH and during the summer, I do recall we were transported in a school bus to the field where we detasseled corn, unless you were one of the lucky kids who got to ride in the back of the boss lady's pickup.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:38 PM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Someone from India misunderstanding western culture constitutes 99% of Quora's content.
posted by gertzedek at 8:52 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


One thing I was wondering about India: do middle-class office workers often have their lunch delivered by courier every day?
posted by ovvl at 9:00 PM on September 1, 2013


For one thing, your "incremental cost" of labour, fuel and wear represents something like 80% of the cost of public transit. Citation?
Wikipedia quotes avg bus fuel economy at 6mpg. Assuming the bus runs 18mph avg, which I contend is high, and bus driver wages is around $13 an hour, then you can run a bus at an incremental cost under $25 an hour (if you can show maintenance costs that make a significant dent in that figure, please do).
That is a small cost to deliver a public transport service, and could be readily supplemented by fares.
I recognise potential public transport users are invisible in areas with no public transport, but that doesn't mean they are non-existent - just finding other means including not making the trip.
And I accept that villages of 350 people will struggle to run public services of all sorts. I suggest that 350 person villages aren't where many people are living.
For the record, in Australia, for example, towns that small typically have their children attend school in the nearest more populous town. Which they usually reach by a bus ride on a vehicle that does other transport duties when not carrying kids to school.
posted by bystander at 9:01 PM on September 1, 2013


And I take the point that some school buses are used outside of school runs. That is what I am suggesting. Use buses to provide school services that are also providing public transport duties. If the buses can be available for football team transport at minimal incremental cost, would it not be even more efficient to use this investment for other transport duties?
And while yellow school buses may have design aspects that make them not ideal for adult use, why not specify a more generally useful design when they are replaced at end of life and then use that more versatile bus for more tasks?
posted by bystander at 9:07 PM on September 1, 2013


One thing I was wondering about India: do middle-class office workers often have their lunch delivered by courier every day?

Dabbawala. Someone approached me about a startup based on this concept a few years back.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:18 PM on September 1, 2013


You are ignorant. About America. Is this something that makes non-Americans' brains break?
posted by stoneandstar at 9:19 PM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I suggest that 350 person villages aren't where many people are living.

And yet, they still have children who need to get to school-- enough children that their bus rides, staying entirely inside their own district, can take up to an hour and a half each morning and afternoon. If they added additional stops to that, or traversed a greater area, or made a long-distance commute to a more urban district, this is a frankly ridiculous amount of time spent on a bus by a child every day. If they added enough buses to service every nook of the township, there would be a bizarre number of buses, or you'd have to show up to places very early or wait for buses for a very long time. There are only so many people to use these buses, and they are spread out over a large area. That seems like a simple concept to me.

Look at a map. Look at this map, of small towns (<1000 residents) in the state of Minnesota. Look at the amount of space that one would travel compared to the number of residents there with specific transportation needs. Zoom in on Google Maps if you don't understand what that amount of space means. I don't know. People just refuse to think about rural America for more than fifteen seconds-- even when they start, the conversation flips to "oh, well no one lives there." If you've never ever been to a place and your attitude from the get-go is "this population is in broad terms insignificant," maybe don't be The Expert On What Is Good For It.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:32 PM on September 1, 2013 [12 favorites]


*shrug*. Many countries around the world have similar requirements to transport school children. The US is the only one I know that devotes a fleet of buses for this purpose exclusively on a grand scale.
Other places have decided the optimum solution is different, and it seems difficult to credit that the US, with its widely different use requirements from cities to suburbs to rural towns, in the heat and the cold all have the optimum solution with a one-size fits all approach.
I'll concede I must be wrong, but I would suggest it could be possible that the US solution might not been the most optimal.
posted by bystander at 9:32 PM on September 1, 2013


So I'm guessing that Europe doesn't have keg parties in the woods?

The last time they did, Poland got invaded.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:33 PM on September 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


People just refuse to think about rural America for more than fifteen seconds

As I said later in my comment, the similar rural areas in my country do not have a fleet of school buses dedicated to school duties. The bus that collects school kids does other things during the rest of the day.
I'm not suggesting kids not attend school, just that dedicating a fleet of buses for that sole job is wasteful.
posted by bystander at 9:35 PM on September 1, 2013


And in terms of small towns, the link to MN small towns shows 300 towns with 150,000 residents. Should their needs drive policy for a state with 5million residents? Why would it be that a solution suitable for such small places, would be desirable for the other 97% of the state?
posted by bystander at 9:40 PM on September 1, 2013


And in terms of small towns, the link to MN small towns shows 300 towns with 150,000 residents. Should their needs drive policy for a state with 5million residents? Why would it be that a solution suitable for such small places, would be desirable for the other 97% of the state?

Different areas have different solutions. I grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia where we had yellow school busses. I now live in the city of Philadelphia, where... there are no yellow school busses, and kids take the same public transit as adults. This is true of many other places; the solutions suitable for small places not not necessarily get applied to the other 97% of the population.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:43 PM on September 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


That's what I understood happened in lots of places (integrated school/public transit) which is why I am surprised it seems to generate so much grarr to suggest doing it more often.
posted by bystander at 9:47 PM on September 1, 2013


Yeah, but it's a thing that isn't going to work *everywhere*. It's not that integrated school/public transit (which is less "integrated" and more "kids take the existing public transit, which is not designed primarily or solely for getting kids to and from school") makes us mad, it's that the suggestion that it must work everywhere and that's obviously never occurred to anyone here is annoying.
posted by rtha at 9:51 PM on September 1, 2013 [9 favorites]


I wonder how many foreigners get told that you really aren't expected to eat all of it at restaurants and that it's perfectly acceptable to take some home?

Heh, try the opposite - not once, but twice here in Brisbane AU, I accidentally ordered something too large to finish during lunch. So, being a typical North American, I assumed I would be able to have it boxed to take out...

No go...

Restaurants are not allowed to do that here, unless they have a special "takeaway license"... Perhaps it is actually for "food safety" purposes, but frankly I am sure it is just another revenue/taxation strategy...
posted by jkaczor at 9:57 PM on September 1, 2013


. How the hell are kids going to get to school without school buses?

Parents can't drive them? I'm in Australia, and I take my son to school each morning on public transport - I drop him off, then get on the next bus to my work. Public transport is great, but what we do is far from the norm. Most parents drop their kids at school in the car, on the way to work or wherever - I have to admit to being slightly bemused at people wondering how kids could possibly get to school in the absence of school busses, especially in small towns where presumably everyone drives. Don't parents ever want to go talk to the teacher, meet other parents? (at this very moment I'm sitting outside my son's class, being antisocial and posting to Mefi...)
posted by Jimbob at 10:01 PM on September 1, 2013


God I hate being on the train with high school kids. I know I must have been that ridiculous in high school. I'm cringing now just thinking of it. If you guys think 14-15 year old kids don't fuck with adults on public transportation, I don't know what to tell you.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:03 PM on September 1, 2013


Perhaps it is actually for "food safety" purposes, but frankly I am sure it is just another revenue/taxation strategy...

Their excuse is generally "if you take it and heat it up/store it wrong then we don't want to be responsible for you getting poisoned" but as far as I know, there's no *law* against it. You can generally get around it by packing it for take-away yourself. Some places I go to will be happy to give you an empty container for the purpose.
posted by Jimbob at 10:05 PM on September 1, 2013


Just a little personal perspective from two different scales, both concerning school buses. . .

When I was a kid in Minnesota, I went to a school that served 3 towns, none larger than 2000 people. The bus would get me (my family lived seven miles out of one two) and bring me 11 miles, picking up other students along the way. Other than picking up and dropping off students, it would make no sense to turn them into public transportation. When you have a town of only a 1000 people, it's not THAT big, and running them back and forth within the city isn't particularly useful, and outside the city is impossible. They were probably paying a huge part of the budget to ferry all those farmhouse kids like me, but there really wasn't a good way that I could have gotten to school anyway. So, in that case, using school buses as public transport would have been impractical.

Now I am a teacher in moderately large city area (Hampton Roads is spread out, but has the population of about 2 million) where my school is right next to the projects. The schedule for the district is staggered so that some kids are due at 7:15 at school and others are due at 8:15 (and get off at 2:05 and 3:05 respectively). After school buses also run on at least Mon and Wed at my school at about 4 and probably run at other schools at different days and at different times. Students aren't picked up if they live too close (as in across the street), but otherwise, it's a decent area picked up. That means that a single bus is making at least 4 round trips and more likely 6 round trips a day (and then some with field trips and the like). That bus and bus driver only is at the service of the school and only can be at the service of the school.

In both of these situations (rural and urban) it makes total sense to have the school buses only for school use. There might be other ways out there, but I think the current system works as well as it can until telepods are installed everywhere.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:13 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Enough about the school buses. What we should be discussing is the total absence of public seating. And cheese on porridge.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:18 PM on September 1, 2013


Me: For one thing, your "incremental cost" of labour, fuel and wear represents something like 80% of the cost of public transit. 

Citation? Wikipedia quotes avg bus fuel economy at 6mpg. Assuming the bus runs 18mph avg, which I contend is high, and bus driver wages is around $13 an hour, then you can run a bus at an incremental cost under $25 an hour (if you can show maintenance costs that make a significant dent in that figure, please do).


Citation? Here's the 2012 American Public Transportation Association annual Fact Book (PDF) . Table 25 has the clearest summary: $4.5 billion in capital expenses for bus transit versus 18.8 billion operating expenses, or 19.3% capital, 80.7% operating. Demand response transit, which is usually the first step in rural areas is even heavier on the operating side; 83.8%.

As far as your $25 an hour estimate, table 7 shows 162.3 million hours of revenue service provided for that $23.3 billion dollar bus expense, which is a national average of $143.84 per hour. (I suspect you also underestimate how many hours of service you need to provide a given transit run; I know I usually am.) I personally think transit is great, but thinking that you have the buses so why not just run services with them, is tantamount to thinking that if you are paying the rent to keep the restaurant open anyway, why not just have people eat free in the open tables.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:25 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


guys i think we've finally found the political position that can unite all americans as one

telling other people they are wrong about buses
posted by elizardbits at 10:35 PM on September 1, 2013 [19 favorites]


if you take it and heat it up/store it wrong then we don't want to be responsible for you getting poisoned

I get that perspective and reasoning... Except... When I do purchase food from an official takeaway restaurant, I have never had to sign a release, letting them "off-the-hook" so-to-speak. So, exactly how would they NOT be responsible, but a regular restaurant with a regular kitchen WOULD be responsible?

At first, I was puzzled - I thought, naw - Australia isn't "lawsuit-crazy" like the US... Then, after another month passed - I thought, aha! ...it is the endless rules, bylaws and bureaucracy (it feels sometimes like living in the movie "Brazil")...

However, just beginning month number "three", the cynic in my head now thinks the actual reason is that various people have somehow abused the government/medical/work-leave system into some mechanism for staying home and getting paid, as they contracted some "unpronounceable" medical disorder from eating bad food...

As per your notes about school and public transit? Well - having also been a typical North American commuter for the past 15 years (at one point commuting about 140km per day, minimum) - I find the transit system in Brisbane amazing (all the systems in Canada combined, cannot match the distance, breadth, depth and options available here - in one supposedly "backwoods" city) - and MUCH faster than driving in traffic here... So yes, here - transit would work. Back when I grew-up on a farm that was 40km away from a town of 2,000 people, unfortunately it would not work...
posted by jkaczor at 10:38 PM on September 1, 2013


As an Australian, when I lived in rural areas (i.e. not walking distance to school) we had school buses. Not bright yellow ones mind you, but buses that were just for school students. So it's not just a US thing.
posted by Megami at 10:44 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


At first, I was puzzled - I thought, naw - Australia isn't "lawsuit-crazy" like the US...

Well someone said a while back that New South Wales is one of the most litigous juristicions in the world, which surprised me. I presume that litigation is rich people suing rich people, not consumers suing restaurants, so I think the fear is some kind of unnecessary paranoia about being sued when it's unlikely to ever actually happen. Anyway, I've found offering to put stuff into containers myself usually makes the staff quit making excuses.
posted by Jimbob at 10:52 PM on September 1, 2013


Jimbob: "I take my son to school each morning on public transport."

So do lots of American (and Canadian) parents who live in cities with public transport. The ones who drive to work near enough to school that they can drop their kid off at a vaguely appropriate time (e.g. the playground is open with adult supervision even if the building is closed) could avoid the bus, I guess. (Is travelling on a school bus required in districts served by buses, or is it acceptable to roll your own transport?) But many people work at odd hours or the opposite direction. A small town that hits the sweet spot -- large enough to employ all or most of its adults and to educate all of its children -- might be able to do without buses, but a lot of places really can't.

I spent my early childhood in Laval, an island community next to Montreal, where my sister and I faced fairly long school bus rides. We would spend 30-45 minutes on the bus, morning and night, riding through some pretty empty areas between clusters of houses as the bus moved from Champ-Fleuri, Vimont, Auteuil, Rosemere and Ste. Rose -- often on busy two-lane roads with no sidewalks -- to deposit us at the religiously appropriate regional English elementary school for the north end of the island. Our older siblings had to take the bus to high school, too.

Those yellow school buses were the only way for us to get to school. Our mother didn't drive. Our father's business was in downtown Montreal -- his drive was over 30-45 minutes no matter what -- and he left well before us and came home much later.

Then we moved to Montreal proper when I turned 11. It was just a short distance away, with the driving time between our old house and the new place being 15-20 minutes, depending on whether or not you took the Autoroute. But there was enough of a concentration of anglos in our new Montreal neighbourhood that our English schools were very close. The elementary school was about 3 blocks away, which meant that not only did we walk both ways, but we could actually come home for lunch some days. When I started high school the next year, I walked in nice weather (it was just over a mile away -- on streets that actually had sidewalks!) or I took the bus with all the regular people. Population density: it really is a factor.
posted by maudlin at 10:56 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


I forgot to mention above, I went to public schools at the time when court-ordered desegregation programs were being put into place, and the use of school buses was an integral part of accomplishing that end. Trying to do the same thing relying on public transit might have been possible theoretically but not in the reality of an urban school system trying to get parents to buy into the idea that instead of going to the neighborhood school, their kids would go to a school seven miles away across town.
posted by ambrosia at 11:18 PM on September 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Because two of them passed by me while I was waiting on my actual bus this morning, here is a school bus in Weimar, Germany. They're run by the city, for much the same reason as busses in the US, handling more rural areas and reducing load on the regular city bus lines.
posted by frimble at 11:34 PM on September 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


guys i think we've finally found the political position that can unite all americans as one

telling other people they are wrong about buses


Yeah, I did not think I would be doing this all day. BUT BUT BUT PEOPLE ARE WRONG ABOUT BUSES.


People just refuse to think about rural America for more than fifteen seconds

People who live in urban or suburban areas rarely spend much time in rural areas, unless they have relatives there, or maybe a "cabin."

So they don't really deal with the people there as neighbors and human beings, or the realities of being that far away. They have an image of "rural America" cobbled together from reality TV stereotypes, thirdhand stories and award winning photo essays.


You don't have to be from another country to misunderstand the culture of the United States - we do a great job of it right here. There are LOTS of cultures here. Minnesota has a different culture from New York. Texas has a different culture from Seattle. Sometimes you can travel forty miles, sometimes you can travel two blocks the wrong direction, and find yourself in a place where you don't understand the rules at all.

Sometimes it's terrifying. Most of the time, its pretty cool.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:00 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Los Angeles County where I live now has 9.8 million people living in 88 different incorporated cities and also unincorporated areas. As Wikipedia points out, LA County is more populous than 42 individual US states.

There are over 3,000 counties (or their equivalent) in the United States.

The Manhattan Borough of NYC is the most densely populated county with over 25,000 people per km2.

The Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area in Alaska is the least populated county equivalent, with 0.0173 people per km2.

San Bernardino County (where I used to live) in California is nearly 52,000 km2. Meanwhile, Kalawao County in Hawaii is 31 km2, with Manhattan NYC at just under 60 km2.

Anyone trying to say that one solution for getting children to school (much less public transportation in general) fits all of the above extreme ranges of population densities and everything in between is just wrong.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:23 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


seriously though this has become real.


Except for the part about coming to bed because I don't really do that. Everything else is 100% true.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:26 AM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure why the USA prefers their buses to be painted yellow and parked all day and weekend, rather than off providing transport options for those in the community that could use them

Look, the number one issue is that the school district is a separate unit of government from the municipality. It collects its own taxes, sets its own budget, issues its own bonds, and no, the city they're in (or partly in, as is also commonly the case) isn't welcome to start a transit system with stuff that school tax levies bought -- or as is even more commonly the case, contracted for.

would it not be even more efficient to use this investment for other transport duties?

bystander, trust me on this one. The bus is not the most expensive part of providing a public transportation solution. The bus driver is.

We just went through a multi-year tussle to get a single intercity bus route established. Several cities contributed subsidies; an employer or two as well. A university campus that was asked to contribute declined. Our city provided the bus, for "free" (in a way satisfying your requirements, although I'm still not clear on how we actually had a surplus bus). The transit director explained numerous times that the "butt in the front seat", the driver, is the biggest cost factor.

And after we went through all that and got the thing established, and running, and integrated with our own bus service, and promoted at local employers, ridership is still at the barely-worth-it stage, from the standpoint of many of our taxpaying observers. And this is a line that services four population centers, not poking its way out amongst farms and farmettes.

Sure, we could send a bus that way, but I guarantee almost nobody would use it. There isn't the need, or at least the perceived need (although surely it would be great if even exurban dwellers recognized and supported transit options that they could use themselves), and the people there already have plenty of personal vehicles to get where they go, and are used to doing things that way. They schedule grocery shopping once a month, for instance, and wouldn't imagine stopping by the nonexistent in-town-grocery convenient to a bus route to schlep bags of eggs and milk home regardless.

Transit isn't magic. It needs to meet existing perceived needs, it can't just be "good for you" and forced on an unwilling population. The majority of people in the US have self-sorted into transit-needers, who live near where they can get transit, and transit-ignorers, who wouldn't use transit even if it came near them during their lifetimes, which it probably won't.

We're much better off creating development patterns that in the long run favor higher density residential living with mixed-use services within walking, biking, or transit distance, than trying to magically leverage all those unused school buses which, I might remind you, are unused during the hours of the day in which few people would be able to commute on them although you could certainly get a few part-timers and people who need to visit government entities or whatnot. A theoretical commuter bus, which is where the bulk of your transit riders are, needs that bus at the same time as the students on the yellow school buses.

You're trying to evolve a magical solution which not only ignores the financial realities, but also ignores the geographical and cultural realities, in the hopes that it somehow just by being available will *poof* change behaviors across the nation. I can tell you, as someone who works in the trenches trying to get bike and ped solutions established, it ain't happenin'. Not that way. No how.
posted by dhartung at 1:02 AM on September 2, 2013 [25 favorites]


*mic drop*
posted by louche mustachio at 1:13 AM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you want to complain about tea in the U.S., go ahead. I'm with you. Coffee makes me gassy, so I am a tea drinker in a country of coffee obsessives. But you leave those sweet, sweet yellow busses alone! My daughter started kindergarten last week and was thrilled to finally be riding a school bus.
posted by Area Man at 1:13 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Coffee's fine. Tea's really something it's best to do yourself, anyway. I just don't understand why it's so damn hard to get good, honest milk in your coffee over there.
posted by Jimbob at 1:37 AM on September 2, 2013


Davenhill: Well, you never know when you're going to need a huge fleet of yellow school busses to not evacuate a drowning city, following a hurricane.

Brandon Blatcher: That's a cheap shot, started ad spread by conservative rhetoric.
In what way is it a cheap shot to point out that New Orleans failed to utilize its school busses to evacuate people (when it indeed failed to do so)? Because it reminded you of Republicans exaggerating the number of unused busses!? Or because you think you know better than I do what I meant by the word 'huge'? (Because you probably don't unless, say, you're a witch)

Would it also be a cheap shot to remind people that, during Katrina, police officers shot and killed civilians who tried to walk across the bridge from the French Quarter to Algiers?

My comment about the busses was based on the premise that one can never, ever, ever be too critical of the incompetence and corruption of the city of New Orleans. That, and it related to busses.

New Orleans ought to be taken over and run by the federal government. But there's zero chance of that happening when one can't even criticize actual incompetence that resulted in untold numbers of deaths because, somehow, that's been turned into a partisan political football. Now I know.

Maybe we should paint the busses French flag white.

posted by Davenhill at 1:52 AM on September 2, 2013


Also cheapo building practices that allow you to slap up a plywood subdivision in a week or two.

My 88-year-old neighbor used to direct movies. He told me how he drove past a building site and was shocked to discover that homes were being constructed using the same methods they had used for temporary sets not intended to exist for more than a few weeks.
posted by mecran01 at 2:27 AM on September 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


I just don't understand why it's so damn hard to get good, honest milk in your coffee over there.

It is the land of honest university tests and corrupt milk.

I can usually order milk at restaurants for my kids to drink. Why couldn't that same milk be put in coffee?
posted by Area Man at 4:29 AM on September 2, 2013


I can usually order milk at restaurants for my kids to drink. Why couldn't that same milk be put in coffee?

What makes you think it already isn't? I doubt a restaurant would have two different milk sources, unless you're talking about a restaurant that gives you a couple of those individually-packaged creamer tub things that are the size of a thimble to go with your coffee.

There are some who are lucky enough to live near farmers' markets that have dairy stands in them. I've started using one myself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:17 AM on September 2, 2013


Would it also be a cheap shot to remind people that, during Katrina, police officers shot and killed civilians who tried to walk across the bridge from the French Quarter to Algiers?

It would be a lie. While I don't personally agree with what the Algiers cops did they fired one warning shot over the head of what they saw as a mob heading toward their town. Nobody was killed or even hurt and the DOJ ultimately ruled that their actions were legal.

You may be confusing the Algiers incident with the Danziger shooting, which is a completely different thing and for which five NOLA cops drew hefty and well-deserved prison sentences.

The Katrina school bus trope is also overblown, in a very similar way to the foreigners here wondering why we don't put those school buses to use for other things. Most of the people who stayed in NOLA for Katrina had very good reasons for doing so and would not have gotten on the buses even if they had been offered. Our experience with evacuations was not encouraging, many of those who stayed were misled by experience to think they were safe from flooding, and if you think it's dangerous to be in NOLA when a storm hits try riding it out on one of the many exposed bridges you have to cross to leave town.
posted by localroger at 6:16 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


This thread has turned really weird. Usually it's my clueless fellow Americans failing to understand why the rest of the world doesn't do things the way we do.

I've experienced public transportation in a range of first and third world environments. The central problem in the US is that, outside of certain large coastal cities where public transportation actually works and school kids use it just like adults, most of the country is both thinly populated and unwalkable. This leads to a very high penetration of car ownership, which leads to a relatively low demand for public transit.

While most households have a car, in most households the car is needed for the breadwinner(s) to commute to work. It is a huge nuisance for commuting parents to also try to get their kids to school because school hours tend not to match business hours and school off-days don't match business off-days. So when a school services an area of more than a few square miles, which is very common, there is a need for a separate system to get students to and from school, since schoolkids can't drive, the parents are using the car to get to work anyway, and there isn't enough demand to support a general purpose public transit system.

And the school bus fleet isn't as wasteful as it might appear. When they are idle those buses aren't burning fuel and they're not taking wear. And they are a resource which many schools leverage for inexpensive field excursions, sporting event transportation, and so on.

And even when they are retired from school service most school buses have a useful afterlife. Quite a few of them end up being used for privately owned public transit in third world nations where new buses would be too expensive.
posted by localroger at 6:48 AM on September 2, 2013


Other places have decided the optimum solution is different, and it seems difficult to credit that the US, with its widely different use requirements from cities to suburbs to rural towns, in the heat and the cold all have the optimum solution with a one-size fits all approach.

The US does not have a one size fits all solution. Yellow buses are typically used in places where they make sense. They are not typically used in places where they don't.

For example, I grew up in a rural-suburban exurb, where the yellow buses's routes would not have been at all useful to adults. Jobs were in Albany/Schenectady/Troy/Saratoga, whereas the school bus route only flowed through residential areas. These yellow buses were used for many other school and rentable functions during the day.

Elsewhere, my wife grew up in Brooklyn, where she simply walked to school. She was astonished to later learn that rural/suburban kids actually stood at bus stops and were picked up to go to school.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:20 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I liked it better when we where arguing over various retail cultures.
posted by The Whelk at 7:44 AM on September 2, 2013


In California, a lot of the lack of brick is to do with brick buildings having an unfortunate tendency to become rubble in earthquakes.--Sys Rq

In fact, brick houses have been illegal in California since 1933.

I guess you could spend a lot of money to build a reinforced brick building or make a building look like it is made of bricks.
posted by eye of newt at 7:55 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


In fact, brick houses have been illegal in California since 1933.


I grew up in a brick house, but having lived in California for 20 years, when I go visit my parents I always have a flash of "brick house!? That's a deathtrap!" when I walk in the door.
posted by ambrosia at 9:55 AM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


And now the discussion of brick houses has put The Commodores in my head.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:21 AM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Area Man: "How much would it cost to add fare boxes to school busses?"

This is kind of orthogonal to the discussion but fare boxes are only required where fare volumes warrant the security. Ad hoc use of school buses for non student transport could be handled with a simple envelope. The low cash volume would mean that managing a cash box system would cost more than the possible losses to fraud.

Or you could use prepaid vouchers with no cash value.
posted by Mitheral at 12:51 PM on September 2, 2013


bystander: Should their needs drive policy for a state with 5million residents? Why would it be that a solution suitable for such small places, would be desirable for the other 97% of the state?

Good point! I am sure the Minneapolis city council would LOVE to work on the route maps and easements for extending their light rail system state-wde, border to border!

From the fertile fields of the state's southwestern river valleys, to the hardscrabble Iron Range mining region of the northeast corner, across to North Dakota's... Uh... North Dakota's missile silos, linking up with access to the casinos scattered far and wide, R.T Rybak & Co. are ready to spring into action!

Well, at least IRRB & the miners should be happy about increased demand for iron ore...
posted by wenestvedt at 1:12 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


bystander: "Many countries around the world have similar requirements to transport school children. The US is the only one I know that devotes a fleet of buses for this purpose exclusively on a grand scale."

Canada, though not exclusively, also uses yellow school buses.

Jimbob: "
How the hell are kids going to get to school without school buses?
Parents can't drive them?
"

While I'm sure that works well for single income families my daughter arrives home an hour before we do after a bus ride and a 4 block walk because we are still at work.
posted by Mitheral at 1:15 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Parents can't drive them?

I serve on my town's transportation commission and we spend a lot of our time looking at ways to get kids to school without having their parents drive them. The school where my son attends kindergarten has 780 kids from grades K-5. The school is located in the middle of a residential neighborhood that cannot possibly handle the vehicle traffic that would be generated by everyone driving their kids to school. It is also located in a neighboring town that considers itself to be "rural" (cough) and therefore does not allow sidewalks. It is served by a combination of yellow school buses and some public transit buses that have special routes that only run once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and adults are not allowed on those buses as passengers while it is serving the school route.

We are actively trying to discourage parents from driving their kids to school around here. A big yellow bus, or a transit bus on a special route, are much much better options for the needs of this particular school system.
posted by ambrosia at 1:39 PM on September 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


While I'm sure that works well for single income families my daughter arrives home an hour before we do after a bus ride and a 4 block walk because we are still at work.

How old is your daughter? Did she arrive home and was all alone there when she was, say, 7 or 8?

I'm not trying to say the system's wrong, at all - school buses like operate in the US would be brilliant. It just seems to be that economically, Australians work similar jobs to Americans, with similar hours, there are similar distances involved, there is a similar suburban existence for lots of people. My family is a dual-income family. So why is dropping kids to school by car the norm in Australia, but in America people living in small car-dominated towns and suburbs say it would be impossible for kids to get to school without buses?
posted by Jimbob at 1:42 PM on September 2, 2013


Different school hours? More (or differently designed) exurbs? More latchkey kids? Safety and efficiency concerns about a single shared school bus ride versus many personal car trips? Tradition?
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:47 PM on September 2, 2013


I'm confused about how the schoolbus discussion has all but totally taken over this thread. Has there always been this subterranean source of rage about schoolbuses in the world that no one was ever really talking about because we'd all totally sublimated it or something? Is the hatred of schoolbuses really what's behind the world's major conflicts? Do schoolbuses cause ringworm? What's going on?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:36 PM on September 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


I have never had any trouble getting a salesperson to act as my personal shopper in a department store. I just pick one who's dressed well -- male or female: in my experience a woman who dresses herself well and works in a department store can dress a guy; better than I can, anyway. They're always pleased to do it, I guess because it's more fun than most things they're asked to do in the course of the day and I'm nice to them.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:37 PM on September 2, 2013


(Though on reflection I should add that I'm talking about the narrow case when I'm shopping for very presentable clothes. I don't ask a salesperson to follow me around and help me pick basic streetwear.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:42 PM on September 2, 2013


Is the hatred of schoolbuses really what's behind the world's major conflicts?

I don't understand either. I'd think that the hatred would come from folks who actually had to ride the damn things at one point. That said, my most memorable primary school bus driver was basically a European-descended, female Pol Pot and could easily have started a major world conflict if she hadn't been busy dealing with asshole six-year-olds.
posted by kengraham at 2:51 PM on September 2, 2013


Further on school buses between the US and Australia: I would also look at population density and urban planning in both countries.

Australia is heavily clustered around the edges, with an almost empty middle, but the US has a smoother gradation of rural-to-urban population densities. This allows for many more "in-between" situations, where appropriate public transport may not already exist, and not everyone's parents can realistically drive their kids to and from school.

It seems like cities in Australia tend to be either very large or relatively small, whereas the US has many more mid-sized cities, each with their own attendant exurbs, suburbans, and rural outskirts. Again, the US has a smoother gradation. Per Wikipedia, there are about ten cities in Australia with populations less than a million but greater than 100,000, but there are about 279 such cities in the US. (I also note that Adelaide has about 1,3M people, whereas the next smallest city, Gold Coast-Tweed, has only 590K - that's a steep drop.)

As for urban planning, I know that the US is very road-heavy and has famously poor public transport outside of its major cities. I've never been to Australia, so I couldn't tell you how it compares.

Data point: I grew up about 3 miles from school, in a rural-ish area with no sidewalks, and part of the route was on a highway. I certainly would have survived walking or biking to school, but it would have been difficult to strap a cello to my person. Being driven to school would not have always worked, either.

...

Also, note the effect that school buses have on school buses. When a school bus can safely take your kid to school, then you're going to be less and less inclined to assume the responsibility for driving your kid to school. You're going to find it profoundly strange, if not an infringement on your child's right to a school education, if you move to a suburb where there are no buses at all. Also, if you did not have a dedicated fleet of school buses already on-hand, then in many places, there might not otherwise be a fleet of buses in town, ready to be summoned whenever the school needed them. Yes, you could rent some vans, but if you're renting vans all the time, then you might as well set up a long-term contract with the best van rental service, and rather than renting four vans at a time, then you might as well rent a single bus, and bing bang boom, you've just reinvented the school bus.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:55 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I actively dislike the idea of having a personal shopper, unless I'm buying a suit, or something else that requires fine-tuning. I tend to leave stores if I'm having a good time trying to pick something out, but people keep pestering me.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:58 PM on September 2, 2013


I think that's a good explanation, Stitcherbeast. It works for me. It's probably the same deal as for school lunches, which are standard in the US and UK, but in Australia the norm is to bring a sandwich from home. Why do hot school lunches persist in the US and UK? Because they've always been there, and there would be a legitimate sense of unfairness felt if they stopped, I guess.
posted by Jimbob at 3:18 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The school hot lunch program is also a source of nutrition for low-income kids. Many school districts also have breakfast for low-income kids, and the shameful thing is that there are hungry kids in a nation as wealthy as the U.S.
posted by ambrosia at 3:24 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I actively dislike the idea of having a personal shopper

Well there's Helpful and Knowledgable salesclerk, and the person at the store who's job it is to get you a season's worth of outfits cause you're visiting town for a few weeks and you don't have anything current/ weather suitable or make sure you're kept up to date .
posted by The Whelk at 3:31 PM on September 2, 2013


guys i think we've finally found the political position that can unite all americans as one

telling other people they are wrong about buses


This thread has actually humbled me quite a bit for talking about foreign policy as an American, seeing how well-intentioned and wrong people can be about simple issues when extrapolating from their own cultures' experiences and traits.

Also, I don't think anyone has mentioned this: I grew up in Houston, the youngest of four kids. Houston is... not well suited to mass transit, to put it lightly. It is basically the poster city for the huge percentage of American city planning which blew up in the post-war era around the "freedom" that affordable cars provided, and that's not something you can walk back without a lot of other problems, unfortunately.

Point being that nothing is close to anything else. At all. My elementary school was about a mile away, and thus once we were in 3rd or 4th grade my friends and I just started biking there or walking there, but until then that wasn't a great option. The junior high and high school were both about 10 miles away (I think?) and not close to one another.

So our parents driving us to school would have involved going to three different places not close to one another at certain points in our lives. Using the busses as mass transit during the school runs would have been useless - they were full and besides they weren't going anywhere anyone but students would need to go. Using them for other purposes during the day would make them wildly inefficient taxis, basically - there simply weren't any real nexuses by which to form such routes and make them worthwhile on fuel costs.

If you want to argue that Houston is a poorly planned city, based around perhaps the worst time in American history to be making those decisions for the long term, I'd agree with you. But the busses aren't the problem and messing with them isn't the solution.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:51 PM on September 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


WRT driving the kids to school: my kid's elementary school has about 500 students, all of whom need to arrive within a 10-15 minute period and be picked up similarly. Assuming that cars pick up more than one kid, that's still ~30 cars per minute moving through, or one every two seconds. There just isn't the infrastructure to make that possible. Never mind the kids in daycare, the families who have kids in more than one school, etc. I can't believe that people are seriously arguing away from mass transit and towards essentially single-occupancy vehicles.
posted by KathrynT at 4:03 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm confused about how the schoolbus discussion has all but totally taken over this thread. Has there always been this subterranean source of rage about schoolbuses in the world that no one was ever really talking about because we'd all totally sublimated it or something?

I expect a good portion of the reaction in the thread is because of the whatthefuckery of it.

I mean, there are so many things to dislike or be annoyed with about America. There's all the people we murder. Or the miserable excuse for a health care system. Or how we continue to inflict Transformers movies on an... well, okay, not an innocent world, but a world that surely doesn't deserve *that*. Or the awful chocolate. Or how no matter where you go, there's always some obnoxious American in embarrassing clothes shouting about how IF IT WARN'T FOR US YOU'D ALL BE SPEAKING GERMANESE! GO USA, MORANS!

But nope. That's all okay. It's the fucking school buses I can't stand, man.

It's kind of like watching people get pissed off, I mean really emotional, about how NTSC is actually not *quite* 30 frames per second.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:04 PM on September 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


davenhill: Would it also be a cheap shot to remind people that, during Katrina, police officers shot and killed civilians who tried to walk across the bridge from the French Quarter to Algiers?

localroger: It would be a lie. While I don't personally agree with what the Algiers cops did they fired one warning shot over the head of what they saw as a mob heading toward their town. Nobody was killed or even hurt and the DOJ ultimately ruled that their actions were legal.

You may be confusing the Algiers incident with the Danziger shooting, which is a completely different thing and for which five NOLA cops drew hefty and well-deserved prison sentences.
My mistake, I was confusing the bridge names in two separate incidents where police officers shot at civilians. And in Algiers, 3 of 5 officers were convicted of beating, shooting, and burning a handcuffed man in his car.

My apologies to the NOPD for confusing the locations of their various horrific atrocities during Katrina.
localroger: The Katrina school bus trope is also overblown...
I agree. That doesn't mean it wasn't a topically valid example of city incompetence.

When I lived in NOLA pre-Katrina, many feared the NOPD second only to the criminals. They were also entirely unreliable. Someone getting mugged and beaten in broad daylight on your doorstep? You call the police, but no one is surprised when they never show up. Someone trying to kick down your door at midnight? Well, you're on your own until the criminal loses interest. Get mugged with a gun and identify the perp? Yeah, no, the cop doesn't want to bother stopping the car (or maybe he's just afraid?). And that was in a decent section of Uptown. NOPD - Not Our Problem Darlin'.

All anyone needs to know about Nagin's priorities and values is that he dropped police chief Pennington (the first guy to actually make a dent in crime and corruption in a long time) in favor of veteran insider, Compass -- i.e. a corrupt and incompetent crony -- which all but guaranteed a continuation of the incompetence, brutality, and corruption through to Katrina.

That Nagin was indicted on 21 corruption charges (wire fraud, bribery and money laundering, etc.) over dealings post Katrina are also relevant, albeit about par for the course in LA.

And for those who don't know, the NOPD was run like a criminal organization, with shakedowns of local businesses in the form of officers moonlighting as security guards (in full uniforms with their police cars), police putting hits out on civilians who complained about their brutality, police running multi-million dollar drug rings, ghost officers on the payroll, not to mention murderous coke-heads. One of the most successful bank robbers in NOLA at the time also turned out to be a former cop.

Here's a PBS overview of NOPD scandals from 1980-2010. The headlines just scratch the surface.

Criticizing Nagin for the mishandling of bus resources is about the kindest thing you can say about that corruption and incompetence of the city government under his tenure.

Sorry for the rant, but I'm flabbergasted that anyone would defend Nagin in particular or the city government of New Orleans in general, especially during Katrina, regardless of party. I understand the city's resources where minimal and quickly overwhelmed; it still doesn't excuse incompetence, corruption, or murder.
posted by Davenhill at 6:17 PM on September 2, 2013


(not that you were excusing any of those things, I realize. But it reminds me of too many discussions where even minor valid criticism is mistaken as partisan psychopathy and pushed back on reflexively. It's a sore spot that has very little to do with your comments, and almost everything to do with how much I dislike our dysfunctional, partisan politics. So hopefully you won't take any personal offense; none was meant).
posted by Davenhill at 6:28 PM on September 2, 2013


It's a sore spot that has very little to do with your comments

I think I understand. I'm 49 years old and I've lived in this city my whole life. So yeah, the cops are corrupt, Nagin was an idiot asshole, and Kenner makes NOLA look like St. Gabriel's Square of Purity by comparison.

But you need to get that chip off your shoulder or you're gonna be walking funny for the rest of your life.

I can't figure out what alternate reality you're living in where "nobody can criticize the governemnt of NOLA" because, hey, last time I turned on the radio it was using the words "Nagin" and "indictment" very close to one another.

And if you are going to go flinging that shoulder-chip around you need to get your goddamn facts straight. There was, in fact, yet another incident that had nothing to do with the bridge altercation where the young man's body was burned in a car in Algiers, and more cops deservedly went down for that.

The amazing thing about Katrina, to me, is that the death toll wasn't mid five figures. That it was mid four instead just blows me away. That says to me a lot of people, both public and private, stepped up to the plate and did a lot of crap right in those awful days after the storm. If you're not willing to see that then you don't belong here, because yeah it will probably happen again. And if you're going to be like this about it I don't need you here when it does.
posted by localroger at 7:08 PM on September 2, 2013


[Guys, maybe at this point, take the how-bad-is-NOLA discussion to email?]
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:13 PM on September 2, 2013


I can't believe that people are seriously arguing away from mass transit and towards essentially single-occupancy vehicles.

Sorry for the confusion; I'm not arguing for that at all. School buses are much preferable. I was just trying to understand the cultural/geographic/historical reasons why in such a car-centric culture as the US, people would regard dropping kids at school by car as outlandish and impossible. But now I think I've got a better understanding, thanks.
posted by Jimbob at 8:58 PM on September 2, 2013


I've been to the US precisely once, but the returning things to stores thing is quite striking to me. I read a few beauty blogs where people talk about returning lipsticks etc. as they tried them and found them not to their tastes. Over here, you can't return cosmetics at all. Not even if they are entirely sealed in plastic and you left the store with them five minutes ago. Some higher-end counters will do it at their discretion (usually if you've been misadvised by them on a colour choice) but absolutely not drugstores.
posted by mippy at 6:57 AM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was just trying to understand the cultural/geographic/historical reasons why in such a car-centric culture as the US, people would regard dropping kids at school by car as outlandish and impossible.

It's a clusterfuck that creates headaches. Since the buses are there at the school, where do the cars go to pick up kids? Since there are cars moving about in a quicker succession than the buses, there usually needs to be several teachers, at least, to watch over the kids. Having sat in far too many car lines at preschools, I'm of the probably irrational opinion they should be banned. They tie up the school lot and the streets outside, along with the teachers, for very little pay off.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:16 AM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Was at a neighborhood Labor Day picnic yesterday drinking beer (Penn Oktoberfest) out of a red plastic Solo cup and thought of this thread.
posted by octothorpe at 7:36 AM on September 3, 2013


I've been to the US precisely once, but the returning things to stores thing is quite striking to me. I read a few beauty blogs where people talk about returning lipsticks etc. as they tried them and found them not to their tastes. Over here, you can't return cosmetics at all. Not even if they are entirely sealed in plastic and you left the store with them five minutes ago. Some higher-end counters will do it at their discretion (usually if you've been misadvised by them on a colour choice) but absolutely not drugstores.

Yeah. I'm not a makeup person, but I would've thought there's the same sort of hygiene issues that make underwear nonrefundable.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:55 AM on September 3, 2013


Retailers just eat the loss.
posted by Mitheral at 8:01 AM on September 3, 2013


I (British) did not know this, it's something I've learned from this thread. I recently lost a fair amount of weight and there is no difference in how I'm treated in shops etc, here.

I think this difference is much more striking for women than men. I was reading a friend's blog post about this yesterday, and she has gone from a size UK24 to a size UK18 (so still classed as 'fat' or 'large' by many - 90% of stores don't go past a UK16 or 18) and has found the difference in how people treat her very disconcerting.
posted by mippy at 8:36 AM on September 3, 2013


Sys Rq - people would look at you askance at best if you decided to return a cosmetic product that you'd used here. I had to take something back a couple of months ago because I had an allergic reaction to it, and then only did so because it was a high-end product and I knew the parent company would refund me - even then, I had to phone head office myself to arrange that rather than getting a refund in store. Otherwise, I would have ended up eating the cost and feeling annoyed about it.
posted by mippy at 8:38 AM on September 3, 2013


mippy - yes, it wasn't until after I posted that comment that I realised it was likely a gendered thing. I knew about women's sizes not being available above a certain size in shops but I didn't realise it extended to general treatment. Thanks for the blog post link, I look forward to reading it.
posted by iotic at 9:38 AM on September 3, 2013


Apparently a lot of people still drive their kids at school, because my commute today was 90 (!!!) minutes as opposed to the usual 50, and I didn't see any accidents or construction en route. The only difference I could figure out is that today's the first day of school.
posted by desjardins at 9:59 AM on September 3, 2013


Also, the one kid per car thing creates a huge logistical problem around the school in the half hour or so before school lets out as cars line up, often out onto the public streets. Most of the schools in this area have elaborate queueing or scheduling instructions for car-pickup parents so as to minimize traffic blockage.
posted by localroger at 10:37 AM on September 3, 2013


I'm not sure what it is like in your local desjardins but here the first day is only a few hours and it is the time when the most parents take their kids to school in order to a) make sure they know where they are going and b) find out who the teachers are and any last minute information. Traffic never gets worse than the first day.
posted by Mitheral at 1:38 PM on September 3, 2013


localroger: "For the record there are in fact neighborhoods in Detroit where Eminem does not live, and we do have indoor plumbing in Louisiana."

Pre-supposing what the author has for prejudices about Detroit and Louisiana.

Plus ca change...
posted by IAmBroom at 2:24 PM on September 3, 2013


Sys Rq: Yeah. I'm not a makeup person, but I would've thought there's the same sort of hygiene issues that make underwear nonrefundable."

Whereas, according to the "19 Things That Only Happen In Japan" article, used underwear become investment properties.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:28 PM on September 3, 2013


Pre-supposing what the author has for prejudices about Detroit and Louisiana.

There's no supposing about it.
Almost every single person in America has access to basic food, clothing, water and sanitation. I haven't been to states like Louisiana and cities like Detroit, but from what I can tell, nobody is scrambling for the basic necessities required for sustenance.
It's quite obvious why someone might feel the need to make that disclaimer.
posted by localroger at 3:18 PM on September 3, 2013


You'd be surprised what 'used' things sell on eBay outwith Japan. If a listing says 'well-worn shoes' and the feedback refers to 'a good service', they're not just buying second-hand slippers to save money.

There's also a roaring trade in worn sports socks and tracksuit bottoms, as apparently there's a gay fetish for 'scally' wear. My middle nephew could make a fortune if he learned to take a selfie whilst wiggling his bum a bit.
posted by mippy at 10:40 AM on September 4, 2013


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