Monday, September 22, 2014

Leaving the bubble

I love to live in a bubble, and hate to leave it. Anything north of Manhattan Beach (a 30 minute walk along the beach), south of Redondo (ten minutes on a bike), or east of PCH, I consider leaving the bubble. It means getting in the car, and maybe even trading my flip flops for a more formal shoe. Bleurgh.

Despite my aversion, most weekends involve a trip to see friends in Santa Monica or Venice. That's not so bad. It's a 40 minute drive, and when you get there you could almost still be in the South Bay bubble - they are beach cities, at least, and my flipflops fit in.

Worse is having to leave LA altogether. I had a good run of working from home when we first arrived, but more recently have had to pack my overnight bags and show my face at other Big Corp offices. Airports I have passed through in the past three weeks include IAM, ATL, BOS and BOI.

That last is Boise, Idaho. Land of big skies and potato farms. It's beautiful, by the way. Driving to Big Corp as the sun peeked over the mountain ranges that ring the city I got the sense of what Boise might have looked - what, 100, 150 years ago - when it was just a circle of wagons on a trail. Or something. Until I passed the outlet mall anyway. Plenty of people in Boise appear to be staying true to America's cowboy and pioneer roots: fully 80% of vehicles in the corporate car park were pick up trucks. And I saw two people wearing a cowboy hat in the office. So many stereotypes were ringing true, loud and clear.

As for the other cities I stopped - for just a few hours in each case - they were pretty much as expected too. I noted many fried chicken restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia where Southern hospitality is alive and well, as embodied by the insanely over-helpful and bouffant-haired Big Corp receptionist. I saw a man wearing cowboy boots in Houston, Texas. And in Boston, I saw many many Irish bars.

I will never scoff at Americans who 'do' Europe in a matter of weeks again. I have learnt that 24 hours in a city - even if you only go from airport to hotel to office and back - is more enough to confirm a few prejudices.

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