A/C, ATMs and American Immobilsm.
Trip Start Jul 04, 2007
23Trip End Sep 04, 2007
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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
The road trip gave me the opportunity to reflect about one aspect of American society in a brief and simple, yet striking way.
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.
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
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
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:
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;
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
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.
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?...."
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!