Sunday, July 17, 2011

You never get a second chance to create a first impression!

My hubby believes that first impressions are never wrong! Interesting, given that my first impression of him was ‘what a fat arrogant bastard’! He was stood at a bar with his mate giving girls that walked by marks out of ten. He knew I knew what he was doing. He would watch them walk by, look them up and down from behind and then whisper the score to his mate then give me a cheeky smile. I think he thought this was endearing me to him! He then quite obviously directed his friend’s attention toward me and whispered his verdict. Fresh out of university I went over to spout some sort of feminist self righteous vitriol at him for having the audacity to demean women by ‘scoring ‘ them on something as superficial as looks. The rest is history! I married the f**ker! He never did tell me what score he gave me. His first impression of me must have been favourable. The jury is still out on whether my first impression of him was ultimately the right one!
Sometimes I believe our first impressions are completely wrong. Following a successful interview for a new job, I remember meeting a new colleague that I was to line-manage. He was well over 6 foot tall and virtually cubic. His shaven head and cabbage ears gave the clear indications of a rugby player. Towering over me and blocking any day light, he scowled at me… all ruddy faced and angry. I remember gulping as I offered my hand out to shake his and thinking – shit – how am I ever going to manage this! I silently howled laughing when he gave me a very limp, wet hand shake and introduced himself in the most camp girly voice I have ever heard, followed by a cheesy grin! I would never in a million years have connected that man to that voice and personality. First impressions can be misleading!
Today I flew to Houston. I am traveling there with the task of finding somewhere to live so that we can relocate within the next couple of months. I arrived in Houston not without expectations. I imagined Houston to be like that 6 foot cubed man. Big and mean.  I expected to arrive at the airport in Texas to be asked if I have any firearms. I was convinced that when I said no they would hand me some guns and tell me ‘Y’all be needing these then’.
I came armed with statistics. In 2005, of 60 US executions 19 were in Texas. That seems a disproportionate share for 50 states! In February a law was passed to allow 500,000 students in 38 Texan universities to carry concealed firearms. Apparently 70% of Texans were opposed to it. It clearly made no difference. I made the mistake of reading the novel ‘We need to talk about Kevin’ recently. I wish I hadn’t. It was about a kid who kills all his classmates in America. It is bad enough worrying about whether your child completed work in class or remembered to wash their hands at lunch or after they had been made to clean the toilet by their bully, without worrying if their classmate has their AK47 with them today! However, further research showed that first impressions and snippets of information can be misleading. Texas is not the most trigger happy state. The firearm death rate (per 100,000) put Texas at #26, way behind North Carolina at #15. That may of course be something to do with the fact that Texas is huge and has more people to shoot to water down the figures. Sarah Palin’s home state of Alaska was at #2!!! I thought she only shot bears!
I was told that Texas was unbearably hot. I find North Carolina too hot on occasion. People in the UK just think you are ‘show-boating’ as my dad would say when you claim it is too hot (when it is pissing down with rain and cold in the middle of July in England). 101°F which ‘feels’ like 110°F is TOO hot by any stretch of the imagination. As it happens Texas was a mere 97°F today. I had to put me cardie on! My Mom told me her friend had relatives who had moved to Houston and they hated it. I was dismayed and asked how long they had lived there. 'Oh, 40 years.' she said! MMMmmmm!
I had been told Houston was the fattest city I the world. I upon arrival after 9 hours of traveling we went to ‘Texas land and cattle steak house’. I saw the three fattest people I have ever seen in my life, tucking into a heifer but the rest of the restaurant were just working on super-sizing. The portions were immense! Not for the first time in the states I felt like Mr. Creosote before the last wafer thin mint! I was full! As could be expected, with 16 million cows living in Texas, it happened to be the best steak I have eaten in the world! …but then I was hungry enough to eat a…cow! Texas doesn’t just boast the fattest – it seems to have some surprises – the world’s smallest man at 2’ 5” tall is from Texas.
There is no denying - Texas is big – 268,000 square miles big compared to 88,744 square miles of the British Isles.  The flight, in state, from Dallas to Houston was an hour! As for Houston, it is huge! As we landed I could see the city skyline in the distance. In the haze it looked like the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. I’m not sure yet whether upon closer inspection, it too will be all smoke, screens and mirrors! The roads from the airport to the hotel were big! Up to 14 lanes wide. All concrete because it gets so hot tarmac would melt! I thought negotiating the Spaghetti junction in Birmingham (UK) was daunting. It was like Tagliatelle on acid in Houston! Spaghetti Weston in cars!
From my initial glimpses it isn’t quite what I expected. I think I had mistakenly imagined Tombstone Arizona when I conjured up pictures of Houston, Texas! I didn’t see one 10 Gallon hat today! A year ago I felt like I had landed on Mars. When I arrived in Houston I hoped it would feel like a different planet. It didn’t! On the surface it didn’t look that different to North Carolina and I still feel like I am on Mars. It does seem overwhelmingly big, hot and scary. Not unlike the rugby playing colleague. I guess I need to wait to hear what sort of voice and personality Houston really has! Who knows it may be all squeaky, funny and camp!

Monday, July 4, 2011

A standard measurement!

My hubby called this a rant! It has been pointed out that I may be suffering from 'Cognitive Dissonance' which would explain my 'rants'. I think I am still just being observant and informative!

Cheap Seats!
My niece arrived yesterday from the UK. On the flight over here the air stewardess had told the man sitting next to her that she normally worked in business class. She said ‘You get a better standard of people in Business class’. He was very quick to point out that he normally flew business class and totally agreed with the stewardess. He would, wouln't he? He was a better standard of people!
If you mention any trip involving flying here in Azalea Lane you are immediately asked if you are flying Business Class. It matters here. They have indicators by which they measure you against their Middle class standards and where you sit on a plane is one of them. My hubby has a zillion air miles from all the global jet setting he does. Company policy is that no one flies business class. He never gets upgraded. He is an inverted snob. You could never call him pretentious. The only reason he wants to fly business class is because he doesn’t fit into the economy seats. I suspect the Trolley Dollies sense this. They don’t upgrade him because he won’t appreciate the ‘honour’. He doesn’t measure up to a ‘better standard of people’ because he doesn’t care... Unlike the air stewardess who ‘normally’ flies business class, serving the bloke in economy who isn’t ‘normally’ in the cheap seats! Yeah right! It isn’t about the experience here; it’s all about the badge. They want to wear the Business Class badge!
Cars are also an indicator. There are three types of badge wearers. Honda is the badge of choice for the majority of Azalea Lane dwellers! All the folk with old Honda Odyssey’s are twitching because there is a new version out. The badge has just been upgraded and it drives ‘em nuts! Suddenly they have gone from having a perfectly acceptable and decent indicator of their standards to being in the cheap seats. They wannabe upgraded!
Honda Pious drivers are the trendy eco middle class who may also buy organic food, although purchasing organic is far more to do with them thinking it will be germ free than anything to do with animal welfare.
The others are those who are about to leave middle class suburbia for more moneyed climbs! First Class! They drive European cars: Range Rovers, BMW’s and Mecerces. They are breaking free of Azalea Lane! They want everyone to know!
Another really important indicator is where you went to university. It is one of the first things asked. Rather an inane pointless question when the answer is obvious because everyone wears their state uni sweatshirts and have bumper stickers (fender in the US) claiming their alumni! I was told when I first arrived by one particularly friendly neighbour that I was not qualified to work in America and would never get a job as my degree was from England and to teach here I would have to pass the exacting standards of NC State. She was quick to point out that the US university system was the best in the world.  Maybe… but I was equally quick to point out UK education was good enough for J.F Kennedy and Bill Clinton! Did they have to re-sit in the US to pass US exacting standards? Besides 10 presidents had no university education at all!
It is still all about the badge. The segway tour guide proudly wore a ‘University of Swansea’ sweatshirt. I wondered if that was why he was riding around on a segway all day. Had he failed to impress NC State with his Welsh degree? I have a friend who studied at Swansea so I can’t ask who would be impressed with the Swansea sweatshirt without sounding dismissive and I know how it hurts when someone sneers at your alumni! That woman who dismissed my 'crappy' Manchester degree offended me! (she was also the one who assumed I was 'looking' for a church!)
You see people driving shitty old cars with bumper stickers of their uni. It seems like a crap advertisement to me. ‘Come to our university and you won’t get very far in life!’ (by the
Azalea Lane standards… they aint flying business class) I have a strong feeling that Ivy League universities like Yale (that 5 Presidents attended) do not sell bumper stickers. I suspect there are rather more refined badges of honour for such Alumni!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Speak no Evil!

‘If you can’t say anything nice then say nothing at all’!
I wrote a blog last night and printed it off for hubby to read before I posted it. ‘What do you think?’ I asked.
‘It’s another rant!’ he said. I was horrified. Another rant!!! I thought it was merely another ‘observational’ piece. I don’t want to rant – especially when I don’t feel that strongly about the content. I certainly don’t feel angry.  I conversed recently with an old university friend I haven’t seen in 20 years. He read my blog and emailed me to say I sound like Victor Meldrew! I don’t mean to. As I have said before it is easier to be funny when focussing on the ridiculous and absurd! There seems to be so much of that here!
My niece arrived for a visit to the states this week. She is soooo excited to be here and is delighted to spot all things American. She thought it was great that she got caught out ordering chips when she meant fries. Chips are crisps here and when crisps turn up instead of the big fat hot British chips you were expecting it can be such a disappointment. Not for her! She loves the fact that people gush over our accents wherever we go. She loves the weird big trucks, the silly words such as sidewalk, the weather…especially the weather. Me? I have blogged about all the things she loves in a moany Victor Meldrew style. I don’t seem to have anything nice to say about those things…. Apart from I love having a visitor who sees such things in a refreshing way… mind you, she doesn’t have to live here!
I like to think of myself as a fairly optimistic, cheery sort of person (I can hear my friends spiting their beer out at that one!). I certainly don’t take pleasure in moaning, I don’t like offending people. I worry about what people will think and I analyse everything to death! Maybe I should try writing cheery, jolly, happy, loved-up  blogs to prove that I can do it.
Maybe… but meanwhile I will have to post yesterday’s rant …and find something cheery and jolly to write about! J