Pickle shots and Mexican driving skills

Unlike the northeastern and eastern bit of Arkansas, the central and western parts of it are actually a pleasure to drive through. The country is verdant, hilly and varied and if it weren’t for the lack of notable cities I could see people really wanting to move here. And from what I heard from aging locals, that used to be far more so. Right now, all the really beautfil lakes and woods are slowly turning into log cabin parks, but many of these used to be diamonds in the rough as little as 20 years ago.

After driving through a dozen states, I am becoming more and more certain that even though each state has its own defined flavour and couleur locale, the states are -far- more alike than European countries are – and ever will be in my lifetime. It’s true that specific styles of building, food, music and language are specific to their own state. But these tidbits of originality have been drowned in so much USA-sauce that to the casual observer, the differences are lost at first. And even when you do make them out, there’s the constant background noise of so many things that are the same, not just limited to items forced upon a state by the federal government either, like the uniformity of road signs for example.

In a way, Texas is the ‘most American’ I have seen sofar. Everything you imagine about the US and actually find here turns out to be ‘more so’ in Texas. That includes the scale of things, the attitude of the locals, the looks of the urban architecture all the way down to watery coffee being even weaker down in Texas. The number of Mexicans I see here is staggering. At times it seems the population of Mexican origin outnumbers all the rest put together, though I have no idea what the actual demographics are.

An interesting note about Mexicans is that a genetic influence of Portugese origin is unmistakeable in my opinion: Mexicans drive like shit. Really, putting it in milder terms would fail to convey the utter lack of driving skills to be encountered in this particular ethnic group. I mentioned before that Americans seem to stick with traffic rules pretty well and that there was little speeding going on. Well, had I started my trip in Texas, I would probably have phrased all that a bit differently. I’ve been overtaken left and right by people speeding up to double the allowed maximum, I’ve been tailgated, nearly rear-ended three cars that slammed the brakes for no apparent reason, etc. And with a single exception to be noted – an elderly woman who should have her license taken away, given the way she was unable to control her old hunk of junk – all these drivers were Mexican, male and female alike. So it’s not a testosterone or male posturing thing either, unless Mexican women grow moustaches.

Judging from a couple of conversations with Texans and Californians, the general reason many US citizens hate the Mexicans comes down to work. Mexicans – illegal or no – tend to agree to work for lower wages than their non-native American counterparts will. So it becomes hard, if not impossible, for some Americans to get their hands on jobs that require little schooling, since a line of Mexicans is almost literally waiting to fill them and driving down wages for these jobs to the point of them defaulting to minimum wage.

Being on the road, I run in to more working class and poorly educated Americans than I would elsewhere and the places I meet middle or (rarely) upper class Americans are generally holiday-related, so it is hard to get a balanced picture or a good cross-section of society ofcourse. But what does stand out that, particularly among these lower class folks, decades of brain-washing in the popular media seem to bear fruit.

Whenever the topic is turned towards controversial topics like abortion, euthanasia or same sex marriage, people stop thinking and start blurting out propaganda. I’ve had a discussion with an otherwise intelligent – if somewhat unfortunate, losing his house and land due to medical bills – man, who argued like you’d expect from someone with a college education. But when I asked him about same sex marriage, he was unable to get to any other justification than ‘it’s just wrong’ and ‘it’s immoral’. When pressed, he was able to come up with inconcise references to the bible but even from there he was unable to complete the argument for the ‘wrongness’ of the marriage of gay couples, yet het firmly believed that he was right and was frustrated at my lack of comprehension of this moral outrage. And I ran into similar examples for the other emancipation issues. In general, going by the US media and generally voiced opinions, I find the US are the least emancipated western nation I’ve visited sofar, including Spain and Italy.

Incidentally, if you were wondering why I didn’t post in the last three days: I was visiting friends in Arkansas and that cut into my online time, so there you go. What I can tell you about that is that good bourbon is not bad and that home-brewed stout can be pretty tasty.

And that mixing sweet drinks like that with vodka and pickle juice can ruin your appetite for a day. ^_^

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Jaap van der Velde

I live and breathe software, love games and spent many a vacation touring Europe on my motorcycle. Currently diving, riding, hopefully flying and gaining perspective around Oz.

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