It’s an interesting dichotomy. I find it amazing that the urban landscape does not change much across the whole US – the road signs, the fire hydrants, the streetlighting, the construction in many places never seems to change from Los Angeles to Miami, from San Antonio to Sioux Falls. OK – that is not quite true. I was surprised to find out the street names are on blue signs in much of California as opposed to the green ones you find in other states. The flip side I realised after my first ever trip to the States, to Texas, where I learnt how much the states to do operate so much on their own, and resent the federal control that is seen as the dominant force to anyone outside of the States.
Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed many of my trips to the States and I have had the company of many Americans on my trips around the world. I have no blanket loathing of a nation of 250 million people – that would be ridiculous. Although, I have come across some examples of complete ignorance in my time.
When in Houston I went to Brazos Bend, one of the few natural areas in the hinterland of this huge metropolis. The slow moving rivers twist and turn in willow lined creeks to their inevitable emergence in the Gulf of Mexico, and have become a haven for alligators. I was walking around the reserve at Brazos Bend and approached a couple on a bridge over one of the side creeks. They were looking down into the water and I saw they were staring at an alligator snoozing in the weeds.
“How do you know if they are male or female” the woman said.
“I’ve got no idea” I said. She paused and stared at me
“Hey….. you’re not from round here , are ya?”
“No, I’m English”
The man chipped in “England; that’s up beyond New York isn’t it”
“No silly” said the woman “England – that’s way north of Greenland”.
I had no way of helping them understand and left it – there are some places a geographer should not get too pedantic. It turned out this couple were on vacation in Brazos Bend; they came from a small town about 50 miles away. They had never been abroad, had no passports. They had never been out of Texas.
I don’t judge them; I know some people find all the life and inspiration they need from their immediate environs and never see the need to travel. But it did demonstrate a level of ignorance about the world outside that I found from some sectors of population here.