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Things we take for granted

Taking a break from describing events of our life, I want to let a bit nostalgia in and recite some things that we so gotten used to in America that we never considered their importance. Without further ado, here are some things that we clearly took for granted in the great US of A.

Having a closet in each bedroom.
It may not be true for apartments – although my recollection of Brooklyn apartments does include sufficient closet space – but in New Jersey, you cannot call a room bedroom if it does not have a closet. No such thing here. We are quite lucky that in our furnished rented house there already is a spacious wardrobe in one of the bedrooms. It is hardly enough, though. We have just bought another one, but there are no assurances that we will not have clothes that do not fit anywhere afterwards still.

Having a full-size mirror in the bathroom.
No medicine cabinet either. Just a small standing mirror on windowsill. Shaving is a daily adventure. Putting on makeup is supposedly just as complicated. Since the sink is by the window, it is hard to imagine how to rectify the problem. Buy a big standing mirror and crook my neck completely sideways (albeit, without squinting)?

Having strong water pressure in the shower.
You have to have a special shower apparatus installed, or you are consigned to a weak dribble. We have one of those amazing machines. It is electric and has a switch next to and undistinguishable from a bunch of light switches. What happens if you accidentally turn it off, especially if you do not exactly know what this particular switch does? Your daughter complains about not being able to wash her hair, your spouse gets extremely irritated and starts threatening violence… A few days later, you realize the purpose of the switch, and the pressure returns as if by magic…

Getting a seat on the commuter train.
Ok, this one may be unfamiliar to those who have not commuted by train as much as I had, but, except in disrupted schedule situations, I have never failed to get a seat on my NJ Transit train. Here, the trains run quite efficiently and mostly on schedule. I am, however, almost always standing all the way. It is as if the schedule has been specifically made so that every train fills up to its cubic capacity. Which it probably has. The only time I get a seat is when I travel out of normal rush hours.

Being able to use a paper seat cover in an office bathroom.
I am sure there are offices in America where seat covers are not a standard feature. But in the company that I have worked for the last 6 years, in every office I remember, they are. Not so here – and I am working for the same company… I am rather fastidious; I will use toilet paper for a makeshift seat cover… Natasha comments that she encountered a disinfectant in some upscale public bathroom, but I am a simple man – give me an oval piece of paper with a hole in the middle…

Having a faucet mixer in every sink.
I do not remember the last time that I saw separate faucets for the cold and hot water in the context of a bathroom. How exactly do you manage to make that work when you are simply washing hands. Ok, ok, if some people can swim in an ice-hole, then I guess I can wash my hands in just cold water. But let me see you try shaving or rinsing when one faucet gives you a fairly cold flow and another a scalding one. I can’t believe that people who installed these just thought, “Occasional second-degree burn? No biggie”.

Having a Russian delicatessen nearby.
This item will obviously not resonate with some members of my audience, but we have not yet found whether there is a Russian deli anywhere within flying distance from us. We think back to our 24-hour store on Route 9, and a sense of deprivation takes an even stronger hold.

Sending kids down the block to get on a school bus.
For those who follow my reports, you already know how much trouble we are going through in the absence of such simple and convenient concept.

Enough for today. I will continue the list at some point in the future. Next time, I’ll go back to chronicling our famous [mis]adventures.

Posted in Expat Archive

1 Comment

  1. Natasha

    Hey, guys,
    When I talk to my relatives in Germany, it seems like they live a few decades ago comfort-wise. I am sure, you’re doing much better in your London house with “the garden” instead of simple backyard, but still … Try to think of a pleasure of having contrast wash for your hands in the morning, breeze of fresh air when you walk Kimmy to school, etc. Life is still great without closets. At least, I am trying to convince myself…
    Good night,
    Kravchenko

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