I’ve been home (in my house) for approximately 2 hours. I’ve been home (in the U.S.) for approximately 13 hours. And I think it’s safe to say that while I’m quickly becoming readjusted (I experienced a minor bout of panic when I went to get a glass of water and couldn’t remember in which cabinet the glasses were actually located), I’ve definitely been experiencing a bit of culture shock.
But I’m hesitant to call it culture shock because it has become undeniably apparent to me that roadside America really lacks… culture. If you define culture as “the characteristic features of everyday existence shared by people in a place or time,” it really is more difficult to pinpoint distinguishing characteristics than the lack of distinguishing characteristics. We like chain hotels. We like chain restaurants. We like chain stores. So is that our culture?
For example, Justin and I stayed in a roadside motel last night since my flight came in at 9:00 p.m. and we still had a 6-7 hour drive to get home. I couldn’t tell you which motel we stayed in because really, they’re all the same.
We hit the road this morning and I may have passed out periodically from jet lag, Motel Bed Syndrome (MBS – it’s no laughing matter), and a general unwillingness to accept the fact that I have to start facing responsibilities once again, and I was confused every time I awoke because it never seemed like we’d gotten anywhere. Same stores, same restaurants, same people.
Toto, I don’t think we’re in… wait, what town are we in again??
So the term culture shock just doesn’t seem to cut it. It was the lack of culture that shocked me. Maybe I should call it redundancy shock. No, doesn’t have the same ring. Commercialism shock? That could really apply in many countries. How about out-of-the-box shock? You know, because nearly every roadside town looks like it was put together from the same ready-to-assemble boxed set.
If I need to buy a new leather belt in one of these towns, I know I can likely find a Kohl’s, Target, or JC Penny that will carry something in my price-range that will fit my needs. Everyone can. And everyone will have very similar belts. In a place like Bagaces, it would’ve been a much bigger hassle to get a new belt. I would’ve had to inquire if there was a “belt guy” somewhere in town, describe to him what I needed, and wait for him to make it. But no one would’ve had the same belt. It would’ve been MY belt.
Street in Bagaces.
Does that really matter? Probably not. But it’s interesting, nonetheless.
In all fairness, I’ve been around this country enough to know that its different metropolitan areas have unique and interesting qualities (architecture, food, dialect, etc.) that set them apart from each other, but you have to admit – if you take away any regional vegetation or notable terrain, you could spin yourself around like a top and topple over into nearly any part of rural or suburban America and seriously have no freakin’ clue where you landed.
But at least you’ll be able to buy yourself a thin burger patty and an iced latte.
Oh, and apparently it’s autumn now. When did that happen??