Saturday, August 3, 2013

America's Top Five

Well, we are back. After the girls’ annual rainbow tour of the United States, we once again find ourselves wondering what to do with our time at 2:00 AM as we battle through jet lag back in Seoul. It was a great summer full of dear friends and family, fantastic memories, and more than a few Chick-fil-A chicken biscuits. What more could we ask for?

As we unpack our giant treasure chests known as suitcases, we settle back in to our apartment and reflect on our time in America. Each year when we arrive in the U.S., different things strike me as surprising. This year we were taken aback at the size of things. Everything from parking spaces to refrigerators to chicken breasts just seemed bigger. Let’s not talk about the size “medium” soda offered by Wendy’s. Learning our lesson from previous Stateside visits, we tried to behave ourselves our first few trips through the grocery store and not throw random novelty items into the cart as we raced up and down the aisles like kids in a candy store. I’m hoping we didn’t leave behind too many uniquely flavored coffee creamers or “new” breakfast cereals in our adopted kitchens after our departure.

As always, we found many things about the good ol’ US of A that made us feel at home and appreciate the ingenuity of our compatriots. As a tribute to the Motherland, I have decided to compile a list of the top five things that we feel America is doing right.

1.       Public trash cans. For whatever reason, Koreans haven’t embraced this idea just yet. I’m not sure if the government is afraid people might put too much of their personal rubbish in public receptacles or perhaps we are keeping more citizens in jobs by having plenty of street cleaners on duty to keep the city looking nice. At any rate, finding a public garbage can here is reminiscent of a Where’s Waldo treasure hunt. I will often put on a jacket and reach in the pocket to find a wrapper or receipt of some sort that never disposed of during my last jaunt in the city. In America, on the other hand, trash cans are everywhere.  Along strip malls and main streets, there is no shortage of places to put my rubbish. Buy an ice cream cone at a vendor and don’t want the receipt? Why, throw it away two feet away from the store. Soiled a napkin already? Just five feet more and there is another can awaiting your refuse. Decide you don’t want the ice cream after all and want to dispose of it? Why, there is another vessel hungry for your waste. Way to go, America.

2.       Opening hours of stores and restaurants. This one particularly hits home when we are in the throes of jet lag. One of the meals that I look forward to most in America is a greasy waffle and eggs breakfast from the Waffle House at 4:00 in the morning. Why? Because it is 4:00 AM and they are open. Spectacular. Here, if you want breakfast before 10:00, you had better start cooking. The popular local brunch restaurant opens at 11:00 most days and noon on Sundays. Starbucks doesn’t open until 9:30. There is one local place to get coffee that “opens” at 7:30 but they will be shocked if you darken their doorway at that unseemly hour. Chris and I took the girls earlier this week and, though they are known for their breads and pastries, there were none in sight as nothing had been cooked yet. God bless you and your greasy hash browns, Waffle House.

3.       Children’s menus. Brilliant. Maybe I’m just not going to the right places here in Seoul but I have yet to see that blessed paper with the little maze and the $3.00 grilled cheese served with a cup of milk and some crayons. How awesome is it that it is just standard procedure that restaurants offer smaller portions to those with pickier palates and let them color while they wait for their food? Just appreciate that concept for a minute, people. Here’s to the red, white, and blue on that one.

4.       Garbage disposals. Now, I know that these are not ubiquitous in the American kitchen but for those lucky enough to have one, they are something special. During our years overseas, we have lived in two countries who compost all food waste so every scrap of uneaten or even rotten foodstuffs has to go in a special bucket under the sink and be taken out to a larger food repository with everyone else’s inedibles. I’m sure that it is great for the environment and everything but seriously, eew. I love to be able to rinse my plate off in the sink, flip a switch, and forget about it. Bravo, USA and whoever else supports this helpful contraption.

5.       Drive through coffee. Admittedly, Americans can be a little funny when it comes to personal space and their cars. I’m going to let you know that outsiders looking in think that our drive through everythings have gone a little overboard. Do I really need a drive through pharmacy? Probably not. Drive through coffee? Oh, yes.  Running late for work and need a quick pick-me-up but don’t have time to go in? No problem. Can’t possibly bear the idea of waking your sleeping child in the car seat but in desperate need of caffeine? They have you covered. Up again with your jet lagged twins at 5:30 and don’t feel like getting out of your jammies and facing the world but running low on your espresso IV drip? Come on by. Not only are they open, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your Ford. America at its finest.