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Stray observations, 07/01/09

Busy at work, plus various relocation-related errands, phone calls and what-not. Less than frequent blogging, as the result.

The temperatures have been pretty high in London the last week or so. Not too hot. Warm-to-hot, cooling down nicely overnight. But in a house without any air conditioning, it gets quite noticeable in the afternoon, stuffy, especially on the upper floor. I seem to remember days like these here or there during summers past, but somehow not so many in a row. It must be the impending move to the States that has me pining for the wonders of A/C.

Becky, meanwhile, is out of the house one more time, this occasion being an immersion French study trip to, well, France. She already called us from there and left a message in French. So, I suppose I’m getting my money worth out of it…

We ascertained through various conversations with fellow parents that our daughter is likely the only student at the school to have participated in all various overseas trips this year: Iceland, China, France. Since all trips were at an additional cost to tuition, the misguided implication of our financial wealth available to be spent on our offspring gave us a definite boost in those parents’ eyes.

I suddenly stumbled upon a recently-added TV channel called “ESPN America” in my SkyTV lineup. It has Yankees on! I watched Mariano’s 500th save in a replay, and almost stayed up to watch the Mariners game last night… Common sense won, but I am cancelling the service in a week’s time, just when I discovered it… It would be a pity if not for the fact that there is much more Yankees where I’m going to. Not so much football, though.

A curious bit of British trivia that did not get much of direct mention in the past (although, I indirectly alluded to it in this old post). What happens when a police officer stops you and demands to see your documents, and you for some reason do not have either your license or your car registration, or both, on you? In the States, you’ll get an assortment of fines, if not arrested if the officer is too zealous. In England, as long as you have any form of identification on you – say, a credit card, – you are ok. The police officer will use any document that you can produce to check the database, verify that you are licensed to drive, verify your car ownership, and, of course, cite you for whenever offense you were stopped while committing. But you will not get separately fined for “driving without a license”.

On the one hand, such accommodation begets indiscipline. An acquaintance of ours was recently in a small car accident, and she had her purse with her, but neither her license nor the car registration paper. I am quite positive that she never bothers to check whether she has those documents with her.

On the other hand, a legislated fine for not carrying a specific document along in an age when your privilege to drive and your ownership of the specific vehicle can be easily verified on the fly is something that grates on my libertarian sensibilities. Or, maybe, having your information available for a police officer to check is a step towards complete control of the state over its citizens; Britain, with ubiquitous CCTV cameras and the national identity scheme, is quite far advanced on the path towards entrenched police state…

Finally, another acquaintance recently obtained a doctor’s recommendation to stay away from work because of fatigue. Four paid weeks of convalescence. The job will be his when he comes back. Can this ever happen in America? I’m sure a sabbatical can be arranged by a mutual agreement between a valued employee and an accommodating employer, but in general, I can’t imagine someone having the balls to unilaterally take time off for being fatigued and not paying some quick consequences with their job.

Maybe I’m a closet workaholic with little imagination.


  1. Jeri

    Damn – I could use a month’s convalescent leave for mental health and fatigue reasons! Preferably during the summer.

    My company doesn’t offer anything of the sort, however, you can negotiate a leave of absence in an extenuating circumstance – but then have to pay to maintain your benefits and have no guarantee of your job when you return (unlike FMLA).


  2. jason

    Regarding the identity check, I cringe at the thought of having to present my driver’s license on demand, but I also find the thought of not having it on my person baffling. If I’m carrying my wallet, I’ve got my license. How could your friend have had her purse with her but not any identification? I guess I’m wondering why she wouldn’t just keep the ID in her purse?

  3. Ilya

    It is becoming less so these days, but one of the key differences between Western European countries and America is that you don’t need to have an ID on your person in order to conduct your daily life here. As I mentioned in a couple of posts elsewhere, you are never asked for an ID when you use your credit card (mainly, due to Pin-and-Chip technology), and that’s really the bulk of time you’d have to show your ID in America.

    Also, Britain got to picture card driver licenses only a short time ago (quite an interesting, if only up to the 70s, history here). I don’t know for a fact how long ago that occurred, but middle-aged people are undoubtedly not very used to having a picture license at all.

    That friend of ours is not middle-aged. But the point is, keeping the driver license in your wallet/purse is neither a necessity nor a standard in England.

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