Seven funny things about North America (day 344)

* The toilets have too much water in them. I do not know why there would be such a divergence in toilet design between nations. But ours just have a bit of water in the bottom of them, and when you flush all the water flows out of the cistern and down the s-bend, and then the little bit at the bottom refills. North American toilets, on the other hand, have lots of water in the bowl, which, when you flush, kinda swirls around and goes down the s-bend and gets refilled from the cistern. Why would this happen, I ask you? And I am sure it has nothing to do with the fact that water goes the other way down the plug-hole.

* They have lots of different taxes here. Two sorts of sales tax. And the rates vary across different products. And prices are always quoted exclusive of tax. So you never know how much anything is going to cost until it is rung up on the till.

*And people give you change. And I mean that in both senses. They still have pennies in North America. Prices can still be $3.17 or $8.92, and not just when you are paying on plastic. So you get to cart around three or four kilograms (sorry, six and a half to nine pounds) of useless currency. About all you can do with it is put it in the ‘take a penny, leave a penny’ tray that they have at many cashiers (designed to help people make change – of course, the solution of just rounding every final price and including tax in prices never seems to have occured to anyone). If you tried to leave pennies in your tip you would be chased down the street and assaulted.

* Light switches (in fact, wall switches of all sorts) go the wrong way. Down is off. Up is on. Go figure.

* They have beggars here. Now I don’t mind the odd beggar. In fact, I appreciate the ones that make an effort to do something as opposed to just beg (of course, these are probably just the ones who are capable of doing other things apart from begging – which does rather seem to disqualify them from begging, but that is by the by). The best ones were both in Vancouver. One guy stood on the side of the road and said ‘money, money, money, money, money, money’ really fast. Sometimes to break it up he would say ‘blah blah blah blah blah’ and then shout ‘money’. The other guy had a big sign out that said ‘Money for dope’. You’ve got to appreciate honesty.

* In the list of products that would never catch on in New Zealand goes ‘Homo milk’. I kid you not. Homogenised, in case you were wondering.

* And last, and definitely most annoying, there are no BYO restaurants in all the parts of North America I have explored. Not a sausage. How can you have a four hour dinner and drink too much wine if you have to buy it by the bottle at the restaurant? Ridiculous.