Three Versions of Tourism in Western Australia
April 28, 2006
- Meditations on Babel
Look at units of measurement. I’m pretty sure that every kid in the civilized world, when they first learn of the differing units of weight, measurements of length, and degree scales for temperature, thinks to themselves at some point… what the fuck? Every seven year old that struggles remembering how many inches equal how many centimeters (and that it’s actually centimeters, you damn Yank), must think to themselves, what purpose do these competing systems offer?
Look at driving. Someone, somewhere, at some time invented automobiles and motorcycles, and through word-of-mouth, demonstration, and those nifty Mitsubishi ads with über-cool music, convinced the civilized world that they were a pretty neat thing to have. Now… how, in the spreading of this idea from person-to-person, did some people decide that it was a good idea to drive on the left side rather than the right or vice versa? If it wasn’t for my local friends and relatives, I would have been turned into roadkill 10 times over now, with my 26 years of experience looking left before crossing a street.
Look at spelling. This topic is too exhausting to cover right now, but the American version of spelling “check” just makes more sense. Right now, Australians spell the bill at a restaurant “cheque”, and then the v-shaped mark that you put in a box “check”. However, when signaling for the “cheque”, they make a “check” in the air towards their waters. Unless this is some sort of hilarious visual pun, then their system is just inconsistent, and silly.
And you don’t even want to know how many power adapters I’m lugging around in my suitcase.
Maybe it’s because I just read Snow Crash or because I’m doing my “Australasian tour” at the same time as everyone else I know, but I can’t help but notice that most of the differences dividing Americans and our pseudo-English speaking brethren here are basically standards issues. So many of these ideas are tied into our concepts of nationalism, and serve as a large part of our cultural pride; I know that a lot of the American spelling differences were a conscious effort on the part of American revolutionaries to rebel from their tea-sipping bastard parents. Is there any hope for a unified system of standards, such that a global coalition could eventually be formed, which will eventually join the United Federation of Planets in the distant future? For the sake of the possibility of First Contact and the Prime Directive, I beg that all people of the world unite behind a common standard! Naturally, we should just use the American systems, as they’re pretty much a global standard, right? While were at it… It’s pronounced “soccer”.
2. The Prophet of Coolness
The great thing about being an American tourist, is that you can be the most out-of-touch loser in the United States, and still be more ahead of cultural trends than every single person you meet. Though not one of these Wallaby-eating Aussies (dat’s pronounced “ozzies”) has heard of “Death Cab for Cutie”, I can tell them with total certainty that they will be huge here in about two months, and they nod eagerly, as if I have shared with them some secret gem of cultural importance; they look around nervously, as I have surely violated the space-time continuum by delivering this gooey nugget, stolen from their future airwaves. Despite never having watched a single episode of last season’s American Idol, I know who won; this information is apparently toxic to the local television viewers here, who constantly beg and barter with me not to reveal this classified information (Note to self: make a t-shirt). In an age of the blogs, Wikipedia, and BitTorrent (for the non-savages out there), it seems that the people here live in constant fear of having their cultural future revealed to them, and only remain ignorant through extreme diligence. At the same time though, they sit enrapt as I regale them with tales of the modern United States, and, by inference, their own dark and unavoidable path. I guess it’s no difference from Californians waiting 3 hours to find out who their Next Top Model or American Idol, or Survivor, or Apprentice is… but I guess I’ve never understood them either.
On a separate note, I also have haunted-looking girls ask me pleadingly to explain what a “Hollaback girl” is. Unable to abate their confusion, I look away, as if I have not heard their question…
3. Touristy Crap