On the road again

I am once again spending lots of quality time in the U.S. and once again I am noticing the not so subtle differences introduced by the invisible line along the 49th parallel. Here are some of my observations.

I do admit that I am mostly relegated to the suburban edges of the metropolitan areas (Redmond as opposed to Seattle, for example), so perhaps it is not too much of a surprise that chain restaurants dominate the culinary landscape. And since in my non-road warrior life I do not live in the suburbs this is perhaps a double culture shock. However, in the land of the chain restaurant you are also in the land of the super-sized calorie count. I had lunch at a roadhouse-type place called Claim Jumper. My excuse for this is I could walk there from my hotel. Anyhow, after I had ordered my (hoping they might be somewhat virtuous) fish tacos, I noticed a laminated document by the side of the booth that had all of the ‘nutritional’ information about the food on offer. My fish tacos weighed in at 920 calories. Luckily I digested this information before my meal arrived. Part of the caloric transgression was because the restaurant’s chef (and I use that word very indiscretely) decided that if one taco per filling was good, two was better. And in order to keep those two tacos in proper Siamese twin alignment, it was a good idea to cement them together with cheese. By judicious editing of both fillings and tacos, I am pretty sure I kept my consumption down to about 500 calories.

But then I learned the error of my ways. One of the great things about U.S. travel is being able to go to the stores that have not yet decided to cross our border. This will become a little less of a draw once Nordstrom and Target set up shop, and we already have access to Victoria’s Secret and Ann Taylor, but there are still some hold outs. One of these is Chico’s. Chico’s has a fabulous advertising department. Everything in their ads looks wonderful, colourful and very chic. As it happens, my hotel was right beside a mall that had a Chico’s so I decided to stop by after my lunch. And luckily they were having a sale.

U.S. retailers, probably in order to compensate for the meal up-sizing, are firm believers in clothing down-sizing. They are the proud inventors of size 0, which has since been surpassed by size 00, and probably shortly by size ‘square root of zero’, which in most circles is better known as one of the set of imaginary numbers. But I digress. Chico’s is all about simplified sizing. They start with size 0 and move up to sizes 1, 2, and 3 (but not 4). I pulled several items off the sale rack in size 0. Not one of them came even close to fitting me, unless I was planning to make them do double duty as shelter. The salesperson was very nice but ultimately not very helpful since we couldn’t go lower than size nothing. Dejected, I headed back to Claim Jumper, hoping that I wouldn’t be charged for extra weight on the plane home.

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