Wednesday, February 16, 2011

We All Live in the U.S.A., but . . .

One of the knitting sites I read frequently has raging political discussions in a little separate section. I just can’t help reading them even though I seldom participate. In following the arguments, I can’t help but believe that at least some of the misunderstandings are due to the fact that the United States is a geographically and culturally diverse nation. In this instance, when I use the term “cultural diversity,” I am not speaking about ethnic or religious differences, but about differences created by geography, population density, transportation availability, and historical factors.

Today’s Wall Street Journal had an article that illustrated something of what I am talking about. The title of the article is “Get Out of My Way, You Jerk!” and the subject of the article is sidewalk rage, similar to road rage. The subject is not what I am concerned with. I live in a little bitty town out here in the middle of the U.S. Much of the town doesn’t even have sidewalks. A partially federally funded highway update came through a few years ago so that in some parts of town we have very elaborately built handicap sidewalk ramps leading from the Highway 60 bypass over the curb to no sidewalks. What fascinated me in the article, however, was this list of “rules” for sidewalk traffic:

Slower people keep to the right. Step aside to take a picture. And the left side of an escalator should be, of course, kept free for anyone wanting to walk up.

When I visit a city, I do try to walk to the right on a sidewalk, but I thought that was just to cut down on confusion. I did not know there was a slow lane. Where does one step aside to for that picture? And the escalator? Where we live, escalators are something of a novelty. Let’s see. In the nearest city, there are two stores in the mall with escalators and a set at the airport. That’s it. And we tend to stand still and enjoy the ride. Furthermore, rather than the rider standing on the step being considered rude, it would be the person walking up the escalator. That’s what stairs are for! In reading the comments to the article, I see that people from that part of the country would not fit in well in most places out here in the middle of the country, even in big cities. If a little item like differing escalator manners can cause “sidewalk rage,” is it any wonder that all kinds of misunderstandings are abundant? In touchy times like these, it is going to take a lot of patience on both sides to keep discourse civil and to come up with solutions that fairly represent all parts of the U.S.

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Noah

I have had my eye on this book for awhile, but I had not taken time to listen to it. This latest sock, coupled with the lack of good tv right now, prompted me to download it and listen. This is not a book about someone named Noah. It is, however, a book about a sixtyish teacher who is out of the profession and starting the next phase of his life. At the very beginning of his new life, he is placed in a very unusual situation which causes him to reevaluate his past. The title comes from a conversation about Noah and the Ark that he has with his preschool grandson. This novel is written with the humor and the insight into the human condition that characterizes all of the Anne Tyler books I have read. I always see something of myself in her characters—sometimes a positive, other times a less pleasant experience.

1 comment:

Deb said...

We have sidewalks "downtown" along Main Street, but the rest of our small town is sidewalkless. Sidewalk rage is not an issue here. It's funny though, when we went to England a few years ago we realized that the correct side of the sidewalk is the left!