Before anything else, let me say it: I am not anti-American. True, the U.S. political system hosts some nasties, but on the whole Americans are decent, friendly and clean. As opposed to the British (who are decent), the Italians (who are friendly), the Germans (who are clean), and the French. As a Brit who emigrated to Canada fifty years ago, I have lived next door to America most of my life. I know a lot of Americans. I even married one of them.
But a recent trip to New York threw into focus four glaring fundamental problems with American society that are not shared by most of the rest of the world. Some of these may seem trivial, but they trip up everyday life. Here’s my advice.
1. Dump the dollar bill. There is nothing so frustrating as trying to feed a damp and droopy dollar bill into a vending machine. Besides, it must cost a fortune cleaning and recycling old dollar bills. Get over it, Americans, a dollar nowadays is loose change. So treat it as loose change and make a dollar coin. P.S. To avoid the Susan B. Anthony debacle, make it bigger than the 50 and 25 cent pieces. And put a picture of George Washington on it.
2. Get a single-payer health care system. There is no reason for people to die because they don’t have health insurance. And don’t listen to Republican politicians lying about the Canadian health care system. Though imperfect, it is infinitely better than the ramshackle jigsaw of “systems” that exist south of the border.
3. Ditch the English system of weights and measures. When ever I meet an advocate for the English system, I ask two questions. “How many feet are there in a mile?” and “How many one-ounce drinks does a one liter bottle of vodka contain?” I have never had a clear answer. On the other hand, there are 1000 metres in a kilometre and 1000 mililitres in a litre. Enough said.
4. Learn how to make a cup of tea. On a trip to see my in-laws in St. Louis, I watched with horror as my wife’s cousin heated a cup of water in a microwave for a minute, dunked a tea bag in the lukewarm result and proceeded to consume the revolting result. Americans, if you want to make tea, boil the water. Boil it. Boil it. Got it? Good. And while we are at it, tea is tea. It is not infused with lavender, apricot, petunia petals or any other trash. Asians know this. The English for all their food faults know this. Why don’t you?