July 2nd, 2013


When Will They put a Woman on a Dollar Bill?

I went to the Post Office today to buy US dollars for my forthcoming Readercon/Marshfield Hills/Martha's Vineyard/Boston trip. (It's going to be a packed 7 days.) I don't think I've seen a dollar up close and personal since 2004, and just now they look strange and unreal in my hand. Especially the $10 bills - were they always beige? I have no memory of US notes as anything other than a uniform colour and size - a particularly unfortunate arrangement for those with poor eyesight, it seems to me. If I squint a little, Alexander Hamilton begins to look strangely Puckish, and the words beside him read "The Wee People." All very Artemis Fowl.

This may be a stupid question, but it would be useful to know: will I be able to use my bank card in America to get money from an ATM? In Ireland and the continent this is no problem at all, but America may be different, advanced technology or no.

Technological blind spots are odd. Back in the mid-'80s my Vineyard friend and I used to joke about setting up an import-export business. I would send electric kettles to the States, and she would fill up the empty ships with screen doors. Has the US discovered the joy of the electric kettle yet? We still have no screen doors.

[personal profile] lady_schrapnell once mentioned that when she lived in Tucson she didn't buy a clothes drier, unlike most of her neighbours, because - well, baking hot climate most of the year plus space for a washing line, and all. "In six months, you'll want one like all the rest," she was told. She didn't - but it says something about what's perceived as a necessity (or even useful) in different places. Contrast Japan, that ultra-gadget-minded country, which still hangs its clothes out to dry if we may judge by the cartoons - despite having a rainy season.

And - to round this off - when Vineyard friend's father visited us in Cambridge, also in the mid-'80s, he was surprised to find that pelican crossings not only showed the green person walking, but beeped the while. "Is that for the benefit of blind people?" he asked, somewhat incredulously. We explained that it was, as were the nipples in the paving stones at such crossings, which give them a distinctive feel underfoot. I think he found these features eccentric rather than admirable; but I wonder whether they've crossed the Atlantic in the intervening decades?