Sitting home alone at the begining of a Labour Day weekend in the United States, I think back to my first day in Cougar Village when I mistakenly locked myself out of my apartment after going out on a needless stroll. There’s only one reason that I can now offer for my inability to immediately open the door when I came back with the right key. In America, things are not always what they are back home, and this doesn’t have anything to do with disparity in development but only a matter of national individuality, and difference. The American nation was built on deliberate indifference and sometimes outright rebellion from all things conventional or – let me say it – British. It is well documented in books and literatures the American preference for simpler spelling and speech forms in written English and why LABOR misses the British U, and why COLOR, BURNED and LEARNED are no longer written as COLOUR, BURNT and LEARNT as we still do back home. American lawyers don’t wear the gown and wigs as we do at home, still gullibly aping an old British tradition that scoffs common sense of the African weather-influenced dressing style. Thinking about that fact right now, I do not envy the accused, or even the witness, in a Nigerian electoral dispute court case who has to stand for hours in the middle of scores of sweating legal practitioners in a heavily crowded room with camera lights, body heat, and overworking ceiling fans. At least in Britain where the gown-wearing practice began, they have the cold weather as an excuse for such elaborate clothing for their lawyers.
The reason why I could not open the door that day were two, as I later found out: one I had only one key and I couldn’t immediately fathom that it was possible for just one key could open the two locks on the door. I have since discovered that the same key also opened my room, a little store room in the corridor of the house allocated to my apartment, and my post office box situated within the Commons Building Post Office on the other side of Cougar Village, just two minutes away. The second reason of course was that I was busy turning the key to the right within the lock, as I always did at home, when I should have been turning it to the left. Whoever came up with the idea of turning everything British around must have been a friggin’ genius. The light comes on when you push the switches on the wall up, not down. The toilet’s flushing lever is situated not on the right side of the tank but on the left. And to put off my bed lamp, I would keep turning the lamp’s switch clockwise, just like I do when putting it on, instead of turning it anti-clockwise to switch it off. Besides, it’s called “counter-clockwise” in American English, and unless I intend to unscrew the knob, I only need to keep turning it clockwise to switch it on, then off, then on again, ad infinitum. Need I mention the intersting American sockets and their inability to accommodate British-like plugs like that of my Nokia phone charger without an adaptor. I mean, in Nigeria, you could still plug the American-styled flat plugs into the general sockets, right?
There are many noticeable opposites I’ve found since I landed here than can be listed in a short post. Some tended towards simplification, (personally, I think the British are sometimes too stuck-up in conservatism to accept much needed change. More on this later.) while the others are just different for no other reason than plain American individualism. A few more are just plain ludicrous. In the whole of the world, the United States is the only country that writes its dates months first, so today’s date in America is 09/05/09. I don’t write like this, by the way. I also noticed while in Boston and Rhode Island how everyone was always on the phone while driving. It looked almost like an incurable disease that seemed to have infected everyone at the same time. One hand on the steering wheel, and the other holding a mobile phone to the ear. And what about the big healthcare debate of the moment which has had the president reducing his policy message to these few words on twitter and facebook: “…thinks no one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick.” in order to get the message as clearly as possible to those in opposition who have opposed his healthcare reform with all the strength they have got, and all the vile? I am now hearing of parents in the United States who have sworn to prevent their children from listening to the President’s planned televised broadcast to school children next week because they believe the President is only trying to brainwash the little children into his “socialist” policy. What? Yes, you heard right. Here is a country of so much laws, yet so little order in things that should ordinarily amount from common sense. Well, there’s a name for that. No not madness, silly. It’s called Democracy. It’s called Freedom!