The USA v Australia - Round 2 - Water

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

One of the first things that I did when I got to my hotel in San Francisco was to take a long, hot shower. Hours and hours of travel grime combined with the subtle anxiety caused by being away from home all needed to be washed away. That was the first of many long, relaxing showers that I took in those first 5 days of my trip.

Big mistake really, because as it turns out the water in San Fran is HEAVILY chlorinated.

I spent the best part of the rest of the trip with sore, very red eyes. I looked like I was permanently hung over - and though for a good deal of the trip, I probably WAS a little hung over, it would have been nice to have the enjoyment that comes before getting to that stage.

What this chemical-filled water also did was irritate my skin in a really horrible way. All that chlorine, combined with the chafing of my jeans on my legs because of all the touristy walking made for some very sensitive skin. Sexy,I know.

People in Australia are always banging on about how we have some of the best quality drinking water in the world, and for the first time, I can truly appreciate that.

When I returned to Australia, the shower felt absolutely soft by comparison to the harsh water in the USA - almost silky on my skin. And within two days, my hyper-sensitive skin was back to normal.

So this round definitely goes to Australia, because even though I'm sure I would eventually get used to the chlorinated water, I wouldn't like to spend the time having a chapped ass until I did.

After Round #2
USA - 1
Australia - 1

The USA v Australia - Round 1 - Driving

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My recent visit to the USA was many things, both expected and unexpected. I guess dreaming about a place for 20 years can give you a lot of expectations, so the trip had the potential to be a total disaster. Luckily for me it wasn't. It may not have been entirely what I imagined, but it far exceeded my expectations.

There were a lot of things I loved about the USA. To be fair - there were also a lot of things I disliked – and some of those were expected, so they were fine, but others were a bit of a shock, or things that you don’t think about when planning a trip. The whole trip and my experience in the USA have been on my mind a lot since I got back, so I figured I might write about these things, try to get them all straight in my head.

Having decided that, there are more things than I could possibly write in one post – not least of all because writing has become a bit of a struggle for me lately. So over the next few posts, I intend to explore the pros and cons of the USA – and unlike some kind of political exercise, this is really more about the pros and cons of the USA as an alternative to my own home than the merits of the USA as an entity unto itself. It’s about things that would entice me to live there, and things that would completely put me off.

In exploring the pros and cons of the USA vs Australia, it’s difficult to work out where to begin. My first experiences in the country were those of a tourist, so it’s hard to compare that to real, every-day life.

I arrived in San Francisco after around 17 hours of travel, and the first thing you see in any place you go is the airport. And really, all airports are kind of the same, so there’s no judging a place by their airport buildings. Given that, I guess my first real experience with the place was with getting to my hotel – and this brings me to one of the things that was most noticeable to me as a visitor – the drivers.

We had booked and prepaid a shuttle bus to our hotel, and on climbing aboard, my very first US experience is that the drivers (in San Francisco at least) are CRAZY. The driver took off like a shot from every traffic light, and braked at the last second. I spent 40 hair-raising minutes lurching backwards and forwards, trying not to end up smushed against the seat in front of me.

We careened down the intensely steep hills of San Francisco towards Fisherman’s Wharf as though we had a death wish. But somehow, it was ok – because so did everyone else on the road. For some reason, the craziness worked. There was no road rage. There was no one blasting their horns or flipping the bird at each other. Initially, I assumed this was because everyone was too terrified to be angry. But as my time in the USA went on, I came to realise that it was because no matter the way someone drives, people there just aren't angry at each other on the roads the way they are here.

It’s incredibly different in Australia, where everyone drives as if you’re trying to run them off the road, and the mind-set is kill or be killed.

In the USA, people made gaps for merging traffic. They backed off for people to change lanes instead of trying to shut them out or rear-end them. In the entire two and half weeks of my trip, I didn’t hear a single car horn that was blown in anger.

In fact, as you got into the smaller towns, the people just became more and more polite on the road. In one instance, we found ourselves a little lost in the middle of nowhere in Missouri. We pulled off the main road into a side street and paused to try to get the car’s GPS to point us in the right direction. We were so focused on the screen that we didn't notice what was going on around us – until I looked up and there was a car waiting patiently behind us for us to pull back onto the main road. Who knows how long they’d been waiting there for us to move! Maybe this may seem like a little thing, but in Australia you would have gotten a long, impatient blast of the horn to tell you to get a move on no more than 5 seconds after the car arrived behind you. In fact, I've been in situations here where I've been beeped impatiently at traffic lights in the gap between the light turning green and my car starting to move immediately afterwards.

And maybe Monett, Missouri was a little more polite, being the small town area that it is. But in the much larger town of Springfield, the drivers were still polite. It snowed while we were there, and apparently it’s even acceptable to get out of your car at the traffic lights and scrape the ice from your windscreen – and no one gets annoyed, even when the light goes green and you’re not back in your car.

We didn't even get road-raged on the two brief occasions where KJ made the mistake of pulling out onto the wrong side of the road. And I think that says it all.

Beyond the road-rage (or lack there-of) there were other things that I liked about the roads in the USA. The rule that allows you to turn right on a red light is great! We don’t have anything like that here. Since we drive on the opposite side of the road, it would be a left-turn on red rule for us. Unless there’s a slip lane, there’s no turning left at a red light. It would never work here, anyway – everyone is too angry on the roads. It would all just end in disaster.

It was a little odd to be on the wrong side of the road– but it didn't take long to get used to. What WAS unusual was sitting in the front passenger seat of a friend’s car, and being unable to shake the feeling that there should have been a steering wheel in front of me. I felt a little naked without it, as though something was wrong with the car.

Strange feelings about steering wheel position aside, being on the road in the USA was a dream.

Driving in Australia can be stressful – VERY stressful, and so for the relaxed and polite way that the drivers treat each other in the USA, this round of pros and cons definitely goes to the USA.

After Round #1
USA – 1
Australia – 0

Tips for those seeking employment - #1

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sending out a resume stating that your email address is sexc_*your name* probably doesn't support the claim that you're “extremely professional.” Or at the very least it implies that you're a whole other type of 'professional'.

A Childhood Dream Come True

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Freeze Dried Ice Cream. Astronaut ‘Food’. This grotesque brick of crumbly pink muck, swathed in shiny silver packaging was my first ever indication that life in other English speaking countries might be different to the life I myself was living in the outer suburbs of Melbourne.

I was 11 years old, and my best friend had just returned from her first ever international holiday with her parents. America! Even the name seemed exciting. It conjured up images of palm trees and movie stars and Mickey Mouse skipping hand in hand with Minnie Mouse past the famous Hollywood sign.

With my carefully saved money, entrusted to her before her trip with a consideration that far exceeded any hand over of money I’ve made since (including purchasing my house!), she had returned with the most exciting item of clothing one could own at the time – A pair of Reebok Pumps.
There was nothing – but NOTHING – cooler than a pair of Reebok Pumps.

Can you imagine anything cooler than these puppies?!
I wore them until they fell apart.

They were a careful investment - an extravagance for a kid my age at a time when the AUD-USD conversion was very heavily weighted in favour of the US (around 50 US cents to the Aussie Dollar).

Despite the poor exchange rate, and between the wondrousness of space ice-cream and shoes with pumps, I fell in love with the good old U.S. of A.

As I grew older, my fascination with 80’s/90’s fashion waned, and my interest in novelty foods for astronauts petered out. What didn't fade, however, was my interest in visiting America. New interests replaced the old. The introduction of Costco into Australia introduced me to the incredible delight that is Reece’s Brand chocolates *drool*. My teenage years brought cute US boys with accents *more drooling*. Influence from parents and friends brought me the music of Sam Butera & the Witnesses, Bing Crosby and later Louis Prima – now one of my favourite singers.

Into my 20’s, online shopping brought me Victoria’s Secret. Blogging brought me friendship with a person on the other side of the planet with more similar interests to mine than most of the people I know in Australia. Work brought other more serious interests – and the beginnings of opportunities to visit a place I had dreamt about since I was an 11 year old pumping up my shoes as though they were an invention to rival the discovery of electricity.

And now, 19 years later, it’s time. In February of next year, I will finally visit the USA.
After all these years, you’d think I’d have the trip planned down to the last letter. But my dilemma now is that I don’t know where to start. How do you fit 19 years of interests into 16 short days? And how do you plan a trip when your interest is not so much in the tourist attractions as it is in the lifestyle of the people who live there? I'm stuck.
In all my years of longing to visit; of quiet fascination with a culture so similar yet so completely different to my own, I never took the time to think about how I'd fit everything into one holiday.

It's silly that I never thought of it before now. Especially when I think back to all of that quality thinking time wasted while pumping up my awesome, USA-trip-inspiring shoes. 

Scent of a Stripper

Friday, August 24, 2012

In a recent post, I asked everyone out there what kind of scent they associate with a stripper. No one came up with the answer I was looking for - luckily though, I only got one answer, so it doesn't disprove the theory in the story I'm about to tell you know.

Recently, we’ve been trying to hire a new admin/reception person to help us out here at work. As you would expect with this kind of role, most of the applicants were females, and our final selection of applicants came down to three or four women who fit the job description. After going through the long and difficult process of sorting resumes and having interviews, we finally hired someone, only to have her call up the day before she was due to start and turn down the job.

The following conversation between KJ, the work Project Manager and myself took place after we received that call.

KJ: I think I‘m going to have to hire the other girl I interviewed.

PM: What, the one who smelt like a stripper?

Me: Uh, what? She smelt like what now?

PM: She smelt like a stripper.

KJ: You’re right! She did!

Me: Uh, and what exactly does a stripper smell like? Or do I not want to know?

PM: Oh, it’s vanilla.

Just as the PM was saying this, another co-worker (James) walked into the office

James: What’s vanilla?

Me: Apparently that’s what strippers smell like.

James: Oh yeah! They DO!

Me: Note to self. Don’t ever buy vanilla perfume.

James: I’ve dated girls who wore vanilla perfume and it never made me think of strippers.

Me: Oh, so all strippers smell like vanilla, but not all vanilla smells like a stripper?

James: Right.

PM: I used to date a stripper. She smelt like vanilla.

James: That must have made things confusing.

Me: Ok, I’m leaving now.

Some Feedback Please

Thursday, August 09, 2012

I've written a whole thing about a weird conversation I had with the guys at work recently; but before I post it here, I thought I'd do a little internet study type thing to see if this was just an isolated peculiar conversation, or if the estimations expressed in the conversation are in fact universally held.

So here goes:

Is there a specific scent (of the perfume variety) that one would associate with a stripper?

I'm interested to hear some replies on this before I go ahead and post about my conversation.
Don't be embarrassed to know the answer to this (if there is, in fact, an answer). There are worse things in the world than having sniffed a stripper. But if you are, feel free to post your response in the comments anonymously. Comments beginning with 'A friend of mine told me strippers smell like..." are also welcome.

Toast & Tits

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Recently KJ headed interstate for work. He was there making sales calls, however his visit happened to coincide with an installation that was taking place over there; so rather than being alone as he normally is, he found himself in the company of two burly installers.

Being on the largish side, these installers like to eat. And that fact is crucial to the story here-in.

Being men of large appetite, what they truly cannot resist is a cut-rate breakfast. For a $10 full English breakfast, they would rise at the crack of dawn and run bare-foot over broken glass.

Luckily on this particular trip there was no need for that, as a local pub was serving cheap breakfast seven days a week. So up they got at 7am, waking KJ and dragging him along for a big breakfast.

The breakfast was everything that had been promised and much more; the ‘more’ part being provided by the waitress and her ‘uniform’. It turns out that the three of them had happened into a bar serving a breakfast special known as ‘Tits on Toast’. Cheap meals served by topless waitresses.

Now, I’m not a prude by any means. I understand the appeal of a topless barmaid. Late in the day, when all the boys have had a few drinks, it seems somewhat appropriate. But topless breakfast? Isn’t breakfast a little early for that sort of thing?
I asked this of a co-worker, and he cleared this up for me, saying ‘there’s no bad time for tits’.

I can only assume most men would concur with that statement - but I have to disagree. Because to me, there seems something kind of wrong with having mammary glands waved in your face while you drink milk beverages and eat eggs.

I suppose this just goes to show that the appeal of boobs to the opposite sex truly knows no bounds.

More Mirror Mirror

Friday, June 22, 2012

I’ve mentioned before how there are no mirrors at work. In the three years since I wrote that, there hasn’t been any great upwards shift in the vanity of the (still all male) workers, and thus my workplace remains a mirror-free environment. Today this presents me with a unique dilemma, as tonight I’m leaving straight from work to head off and enjoy my birthday present from KJ – dinner and jazz music aboard the Historic ‘Puffing Billy’ steam train.

The dilemma is that Puffing Billy leaves from the train station in Belgrave. Belgrave is about an hour from my home, and at least an hour and a half from my work. The train leaves at 7:15pm, and I need to be there 20 minutes beforehand. I’m also picking up my sister and her boyfriend on the way. I finish work at 5pm. Do the maths on that and it will tell you that I’m left with just 15 minutes to get ready. 15 minutes to get ready wouldn’t be a problem if only I were at home – but alas there is no time to go home and prepare. Instead I’m here at work with no mirrors and a short 15 minutes to attempt to apply makeup, do hair and get changed.

I suppose the best that I can hope for is that my skill with a makeup brush is above the necessity of a mirror. But given that I’m not one to be heavily made-up day to day, this seems unlikely. So really the actual best I can hope for is that good old Puffing Billy will be so distracting that no one will notice that I look like Marge Simpson after Homer tested out his makeup shotgun on her.

Would you notice this?

My Favourite Feature

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Recently, KJ got himself a new car. Like all new cars, this one is chock full of fancy-schmancy features that people never knew they needed in a car until some bright spark decided they could sell convenience for top dollar.

Air conditioned glove box – for those sales reps who can’t go a whole day without their egg salad sandwich .
Dimmable footwell lights – so your feet can share the spotlight.
Tracking Headlights – so you can see around corners as you turn into them.
Size adjusting cup holders; voice controlled stereo; parking assist – you name it, this car has got it. Each and every feature left me giggling at their excessiveness.

But there is one feature – oh, this one feature that after initial scoffing has got me so hooked that I have considered selling my car to get my hands on it; or I should say – my butt on it.

Heated seats.

Ohhhhhh the gloriousness of heated seats! Those of you who have never experienced seat heating cannot truly understand the wonder of a warm, snug bum, or a gently heated spinal column.

Any man who shares a bed with a woman will know how the female derriere can often be like a firm, round block of ice. So to have a seat that warms it gently without screeching about how cold it is can only be a winner in my book.
Not only does the base of the seat warm, but the back does as well. At the end of a long day, aching muscles rejoice at the touch of the gloriously warm bucket seats.

I’ve found myself making excuses to travel in KJ’s car just for the seats. Where before I would have driven myself to work, now I find myself suggesting car-pooling most days. When we arrive at work, it’s a struggle to drag myself from the warm embrace of the car into the chill morning air and icy desk chair of my office.
Every other seat seems inferior. Even my beautiful, comfy couch has lost some of the lustre that it once had.
Even now as I type this, I’m painfully aware that my bum is quite cold.

Oh, heated seats. You’ve ruined my bum for all other chairs.

Bewitched by an email

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I just got an email from a guy whose name is Darren Stevens. This made me giggle, so I told some other people at work. None of them understood why it was amusing. Suddenly I feel quite old.

Also, I can't get the theme song from 'Bewitched' out of my head now.