Daily Archives: February 27, 2019

On returning to the USA

Thoughts on returning to the USA . . . .

[some of these ideas will not be popular!]

First of all, my usual airport-at-home meal of chips was accompanied today by queso instead of salsa. And all was well.


I heard very little about Donald Trump whilst in Africa or Europe, thanks be to god. But the Philly airport has all these televisions turned to news, filled with the noise and bloviations of this man. He’s a nuisance, an idiot.

I’ve just traveled to two continents, and I can confirm what I already knew and have witnessed over and over — Americans abroad are are by-and-large noisier and needier than others when abroad. At breakfast today, in the midst of quiet meals, two tables of Americans were obnoxiously noisy. At various gates at Madrid today, the Americans were the ones being bossy and needy and full of gripes.

Look folks — air travel is air travel, and full of weather and mechanical issues that might disrupt. Live with it!

And please take a cue from your surroundings and try to fit in more adroitly with your surroundings?  Perhaps be quiet and listen first??

I would also note that Americans as a whole are some of the largest people traveling. I myself should lose some pounds. But I watch Americans who just too large, and who have breathing problems and mobility problems, and who drink full-sugar colas and eat processed, packaged, calorie-laden foods. We are killing ourselves. (Professor, heal thyself, and give up chips and queso.)

My thoughts also turn to infrastructure. This tax-mad (as in ‘mad at taxes’) country continues to fall behind in a critical area. For instance, Morocco is building new train stations, has inaugurated high-speed train service, is renovating airports, and is pouring money into public works. Madrid has a world-class airport, with loads of space, trams, clear signage, comfort and multi-lingual staff. So does Stockholm. Vienna, The new QE terminal at Heathrow.

Then I come home and find yet another airport that is clearly past its prime, with crumbling physical aspects, carpet that is beyond replacement, and staff who couldn’t do three languages if required. This latter seems endemic in international terminals in the USA. TSA requires that all inbound international passengers be re-screened at security, but provide no staff who are better trained in languages than those at Helena or Harrisburg. We just seem chauvinistic. While other countries go out of their way to make tourists and travelers feel welcome, we expect foreigners to figure it out with no help upon arrival here in the USA.

We read it all the time: domestic train terminals are a mess, bridges are years past their useful life, roads are literally falling apart as we drive on them, air traffic control continues to be run by ancient computer technology, the IRS is using 1960s computer programs. And yet our federal government cuts taxes to help the wealthy, can’t seem to think in terms of making the USA a 21st century country (in its nuts and bolts), and kicks the can down the road. (After taking the inter-terminal tram in Madrid, the diesel-belching transfer bus route in Philly made me avert my eyes, so ugly and scarred was the underbelly of the airport.)

Meanwhile, our country goes through what I hope is the last throes of debate about the rightness and correctness of a global economy, and American primacy on the world stage.  We must leave xenophobia and iconoclasm behind.  Whether we like it or not, the future of the 21st century is one of cooperation and collaboration, rather than ‘me first.’  And we must make the hard decisions about carbon and fuel and climate and saving this planet, or our children and grandchildren will have nothing left except even more ‘me first.’  

I wish I were eloquent on this, but I’m damned tired of this chauvinism.

God help us.

I need some more tortilla chips.