Posted on Friday, January 28th, 2005
A small part of me fears American roads more, now that I’ve officially taken and passed the California driving test. Not that I’m casting aspertions on my own driving skills (whatever some of my snider friends might insinuate), but because the test in general is ludicrously easy.
As seems common in many countries these days, there’s two parts to driving tests here – a multiple-choice written examination, and a “behind-the-wheel” test.
In addition, applicants for the written test must undergo the trial of finding their way correctly around the labyrinthine structure of a typical DMV office in order to get all the right paperwork signed and sealed. Given that I did all my organisation at Santa Clara DMV (rather than the apparently larger, busier and more confused San Jose branch), I feel lucky that all went as smoothly as it did.
Posted on Wednesday, January 26th, 2005
The media image of the US is that of a place where everything is bigger, bolder, brighter, better. And god bless ‘em, the Yanks embrace that philosophy heartily in many areas, as anyone who’s ever found their car in the slipstream of a Chevy Suburban will know all too well. (I mean, where else on Earth would “three-quarter ton” be an integral part of the vehicle name?)
One place where they fall short, though, is the juice you get out of a power socket. 120 volts? What’s with that?
Posted on Wednesday, January 12th, 2005
Bad Beatles references aside, rejoicing is in order. I picked up my new Jeep Wrangler last night, and boy is she purty:
Click here for a more comprehensive set of photos.
For some bizarre reason, she’s called Betsie. I’m not exactly sure why, but 5 minutes in the driving seat confirmed that this is definitely a Betsie of a car.
Posted on Tuesday, January 11th, 2005
In America, the Social Security Number is the Golden Ticket to pretty much everything. You can actually open a bank account, and even arrange finance with some organisations without it (hence the fact that I’ve already bought a car). But you can only do these things on the understanding that you’ll let the organisation know as soon as you have one arranged.
Getting a SSN is a bit of a pain. The rules for foreign nationals have changed in the last few months, and you now have to wait up to 10 working days from your entry into the country before you can even apply. This is the deadline Homeland Security have for passing on details of your immigration entry to the Social Security Administration. Fair enough. My details actually arrived in 7 working days. So far, so good.
Posted on Tuesday, January 11th, 2005
Well, that was a surprise. Amazing what a dealership can get done when they want your business.
After the cagey approach I had from the Mini dealer I spoke to in Mountain View, I was quite disheartened about the prospect of easily buying a car in America with no US credit history.
Enter the Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge dealership in Sunnyvale. I was out and about flathunting on Sunday when I drove past it, and thought I’d just drop in for a quick look at what they had on offer.
Three hours, one test-drive and a damn good salesman with the voice of Samuel L Jackson, the approximate demeanour of an ex-Navy SEAL (which he claimed to be), the gangster name “Tony B” and the real, strong desire to win my business, and I was signed up.
Posted on Monday, January 10th, 2005
America: land of coffee.
One of the hardest things about moving here is resigning yourself to the fact that you’re unlikely to find a decent cuppa unless you brew it yourself. Chai Latte? Almost certainly. But good, strong builders’ tea is way out.
There are, of course, historical reasons for this. I doubt that the whole mad King/taxes/Boston harbour/big freaking war thing really helped tea in its status as a Big American Drink.
Still, there are advantages to this. There’s no easier way to play the ‘quaint Englishman’ card that to stick a teabag in a cup of hot water and dump some cow juice on top. Honestly, it gets people here cooing over how great Englishness is in the same way a belly rub makes a dog’s hind leg shake.
Now, where’s my box of PG Tips gone…?
Posted on Sunday, January 9th, 2005
American cars come with a bing for every occasion. If it’s bad for you, the car will bing at you. We inherited a little of it in the UK, but nost cars in Europe will only warn you that you left the headlights on, which is kinda handy (no more flat batteries).
Here, there’s a bing and a helpful on-dash warning for everything:
- Key in ignition (with door open)
- Lights left on
- Lights left off (in the dark)
- Door ajar
- Seatbelt off
…you name it, there’s a bing for it.
I haven’t been to a drive-thru yet, but I’m fully expecting the car to warn me when I do…
Bing bing bing bing bing… “Burger bun heavy in carbs; please discard.”
Posted on Saturday, January 8th, 2005
There are new years, and then there are New Years. For my money, you don’t get much Newer than moving to another continent the day after the year starts.
On January 1st, I’d arranged to meet up with all my friends at a pub in Islington, for a final goodbye before disappearing. Well, I hadn’t arranged it so much as scattered an email around and wondered whether people would bother showing.
I’m still shocked that what must have been 30 of you did. I was touched. I even had to wipe a tear from my eye when I left. No, really. It wasn’t at all easy to say goodbye. I’m gonna miss you guys…