Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Texas and Geography (with a capital G)

So we went to Texas for April vacation. Mom and Polly have a house in Port O'Connor and I haven't been for 5 years. Only Kai has ever been there, which is shameful. The kids had a wonderful time fishing, wading waaaaaaay out in Matagordo Bay (which is 13 feet deep at it's deepest point), visiting with the Texas family, riding bikes and generally enjoying the warm humid weather. Below are some pictures...

So, that was fun.

My darling sister chose to visit family in France during this holiday, which at first made me jealous because I love France like I love, well, LIFE. However, there was a wee volcanic eruption that week and her travel plans got a teensy bit messed up. It took her 4 days to get to the South of France.....from Rome. Italy. As in, right next door. They got from the States to Rome fine, but then it all unravelled. Obviously the trains were all very crowded, but that wasn't helped by the fact that the regional trains in France, and this should surprise NO ONE who has spent any time there, were on, you guessed it, STRIKE! Yes, the strike, that most beloved of French pastimes. When I was living ion Paris there was one every week, from air traffic controllers to nurses to the metro drivers (that one was a bit of a bummer but I was 18 and able bodied so I wasn't too affected.)

Anyway, My sister and nephew had a ridiculous journey in which they were offered a flight to Marseilles via Algeria. And how was she supposed to get to Algeria? By boat? Thanks, but we'll try a different route, like maybe over the Alps by elephant! They wound up sneaking onto the TGV and sharing a compartment with some ladies of a certain age who also snuck on. The conductor didn't check tickets, I think they were probably feeling bad for people at that point. Anyway, they got to our relatives' safely, but there was still the pesky question of how to get home.
When they were trying to rebook those flights, along with tens of thousands of other people, the guy at American Express told her he could get her on a plane out of Glasgow. Silence. "But we're in the south of France." To which he replies, "Can't you just take a train to Glasgow?" Really? REALLY??
OK, I am about to make disparaging remarks about Americans and their willful lack of knowledge of geography. Prepare yourselves. What the hell is going on here? It seems to me that I have been confronted by this kind of idiocy far more frequently than I ought to be. I love Americans. We are generally a very warm, open and cheerful lot. We have, as a people, an excellent sense of humor and tend to abide by the rules of fair play and decency. (Please note that I am talking about the American PEOPLE, not the government. Most emphatically not the government. Even with my guy in the White House.) However, there seems to almost be a kind of pride people take in their own cluelessness, as if it were cool to be ignorant. Please believe me, IT IS NOT COOL! (Neither is typing in caps, but I can't help it tonight.)

Case in point. The Burlington Airport at, like, 4am. Zach and I and our THREE small children ages 6, 5 and almost 2 have been bumped from the first flight that is to get us to the Bahamas. They let us go all the way through security before they let us know that, even though the bitch, I mean woman, at the check in counter was the one who bumped us. Anyway. I am standing there trying to get us on some flight to anywhere that can get us to Nassau so we can catch the little plane to the Out Islands. She tells us we can leave in two days or (and she says this with a completely straight face,) "you can drive to Charlotte and catch your connection to Nassau there." I stare at her for a minute. She repeats it. "Charlotte, North Carolina?" I say with an emphasis that I hope conveys the distance we are talking about. She says yes, that is the one and that none of the flights out of there are full. I say "Yes, they may not be full, but they are also leaving out of North Carolina!" Again, please note the emphasis because I assure you, she did not. She finally looks at me and says "What? Is that far?" I blink. "About 18 hours." At which point she says, "Well jeez, I don't know where Charlotte is." At which point I had to pretend that there was something very exciting happening in my carry-on.

She worked at an AIRLINE. One whose hub was in the very airport we were talking about.

People, get maps, hang them on walls. Study them. Bathrooms make excellent places for maps and atlases. I mean, who doesn't want a little reading material in the WC.

I get that there will be places that people don't know about. I didn't expect everyone I told about Noah's adoption to know where Kyrgyzstan is (although given the sheer number of military service men and women who have gone through there over the last 8 years, you would think more people would,) but to not understand that Glasgow, Scotland cannot be reached from Uzes, France in less than 24 hours without involving air travel is frankly a bit pathetic. Especially if you are a TRAVEL AGENT!!! And don't get me started on little miss sunshine who was oddly proud of not knowing that North Carolina and Vermont aren't really convenient driving distance apart.

There's more. When living in New Mexico, I was asked what it was like to be from Canada. I had to explain that Vermont was indeed a state. One of the early ones too! When I first applied to school in Santa Fe, someone in Vermont asked me why I wanted to study out of the country. People PLEASE! I don't have time for this kind of crap. I have definite weak points in knowledge of things too, I get it, you can't know everything, but come ON.

OK, rant over. I am just going to start buying atlases and handing them out randomly to people who look lost or say stupid shit from now on. Maybe Mapquest is to blame for this. Maybe people have just gotten lazy. Whatever, it's a damn, and annoying, shame.


Catharine said...

Many people in the US are happily clueless about Geography, which is appalling. I discovered this, in 3rd grade, after moving to a US college town from overseas, that more than half the class hadnt been out of the county. THE COUNTY, or even to San Francisco, which was only 1.5 hours away by car. Crazy Americans.

SS said...

One of my coworkers once made a comment to me about Montana being in the South... she has a masters degree.

One recommendation I have is to get map placemats. You can have the world on one side and the US on the other side. We had them when I was a kid, and they were great!

Lorie said...

Vermont...Vancouver. Not the same thing? ;D

I think these people might need a little more than a map! ;D

the shoafs said...

visiting from SITS :)

and "wow"...that's all i have to say about the lack of geography knowledge.

i actually know where kazahkstan is because some friends of mine were missionaries there. otherwise...probably wouldn't be able to say it, spell it, or pick it out on a map. but i DO know where vermont is :)

Lori said...

It's not funny, it's REALLY not, but reading what you wrote about it did make me smile, so thanks.

Sadly, so, so true. One of my best friends was from Australia and told me that ALL the time people asked him how long it took or him to drive here (meaning VA)...seriously???? Or how long it took him to learn English/how different it was from Australian.


I loved the water pictures--looks like so much fun!

D and A said...

Hi April - don't know what happened - thanks for your comment on my blog. I approved it, but somehow it disappeared...perhaps Karl Rove didn't like it! I love this post of yours as well - it's very funny and very true (sadly) at the same time. And to answer your question, we are with Adoption Ark.

craftymama said...

people i met always thought Vermont was a city in the state of New England, or thought i must live on a farm!

Hatice said...

I'm from The Bahamas and when I went to college in the U.S I was asked if I drove there!!

I also had many people say The Bahamas was America which used to confuse the CRAP out of me! I mean, forget the rest of the world... you don't even know what falls within your own borders?!

SS said...