A/C, ATMs and American Immobilsm.

Madison Travel Blog

 › entry 18 of 20 › view all entries
Hello, and welcome back after a few days of absence (mine, not yours I hope) from this pages.

As you know, a lot has happened, mostly in one single day at the very beginning of the month, and since then I have been extremely busy sorting out photos and photo agencies, videos and TV stations, and other working issues with NEED.

I got back a couple of hours ago from Madison, the diminutive capital city of Wisconsin, where some of the magazine's staff was proofreading the final proofs before we go to press.

The road trip gave me the opportunity to reflect about one aspect of American society in a brief and simple, yet striking way.

Much have been said about America's impermeability to — in a strictly random order, both on abstract and concrete levels — external influences, immigration, threats, ideas, etc.

In less than 24 hours around a tiny portion of the country, from Minneapolis to Madison and back, I realised a small but inconfutable truth. The US are a closed society also because Americans are seldom exposed to open air.

This fact alone, I'm trying to argue, must have had, little by little, an influence on people's general psyche, changing their attitude towards instituniolised restrictions, which are becoming more and more common, yet not so noticeable for the average American.

Let me talk you through some examples of this theory of mine, which is based on observations I have made of Americans' relationship with Air Conditioning.

They love it. They have it everywhere, they often give it for granted, and they can barely live without it.

The place where I am staying at the moment, for instance. It's a flat in a big housing complex for students, a 18-story-high building with hundreds of residents. A/C is one of the perks when you rent an apartment here — that on the other hand comes unfurnished —, but it is centralised, so individual tenants cannot decide on the intensity to which it is blasted out. And sometimes it's really bloody cold, especially at night!

As I said, A/C is ubiquitous; homes, buses, bars, offices, schools...and has roots so deep into people's habits that even on a sunny and not-so-hot day, I challenge you to find somebody that would rather stay outdoor basking under the sun, and not indoor in front of a TV.

But it's not only about A/C. It's also about a built environment that prevents people from moving too much and too far.

It's the case of:

  • giant commercial centres — Minneapolis is home to Mall of America, apparently the biggest in the US — that cater for all you shopping needs;

  • home delivery services thanks to which basically everything is just a phone call away;

  • city-layouts that are friendlier to cars than pedestrians, and with bridges that connect several downtown buildings so you don't have to step out on the street;

  • and my all-time favourite, drive-through cash dispensers.

Yeah, that's right, ATMs that can be used only, and I stress ONLY, if you have a car. If you walk through, you won't be served.

All these things contribute to create a culture of immobilism (I might be inventing a word here) that is similar to a mild form of agoraphobia, or fear of open spaces. This is the thinking, I suppose: "What's the use of getting out my car/home/favourite mall/office? Why shall I leave the safety of my car/home/favourite mall/office?...."

My last words are for all those Americans that are completely different from the stereotype I have just described...They are many, possibly the silent majority, maybe not....In any case, keep it real!

Stay Tuned.
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
photo by: DaveSwede