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What Time is it Over There?

June 1, 2011

I find myself getting a little prickly when I’m around American’s who have traveled to other countries. They seem to all become so aloof, as if the moment these newly world travelled kids takes their first bite of an English blood pie or smoke a legalized joint, they are immediately whooshed into a realization that the United States of America is nothing more than a disdained dark puddle, that sits foully in the middle of what otherwise would be a wonderfully enlightened continent full of culture and worldly experiences.

This being said, most Americans really need to get out more. How do I come to this? The next time you’re on a multinational conference call, count down how long it takes before an American moderator asks a foreign speaker,

“Say, what time is it over there?”

What time is it over there? Really? He’s having a conversation with a gentleman on the Southern coast of Australia who is probably involved in some local revolution while he’s hand feeding a baby seal this very moment, but this guy wants to know if it’s night-time there while it’s day time here.

Maybe you don’t get on such conference calls? Then do a countdown on yourself. Next time you’re talking on the customer service line with Dish, Direct, Chase or Ford Motor Company, count down how long it takes after you realize that you’ve been transferred to the Philippines, to ask, What time is it over there?

It’s really kind of sad. Here you are speaking to another nation, perhaps half way around the world. If Americans had any knowledge about anything going on anywhere outside of Hollywood and their own Facebook wall, we’d take the opportunity to get a unique perspective from the person on the other end of the line about the state of things where they are. We might ask,

“Oh, you’re in Sydney? What kind of consensus have you and your friends drawn regarding ‘climate change?” or

“So, you’re speaking to me from Millan, huh? Hey, do you think President Aquino will make any significant change in the socio-economic clashing between the Filipino middle class and the mestizos?”

But we don’t. We just ask, “So you’re from over there in the Filipinos? Cool! Hey, what time is it there?”

It really makes you wonder what the average American would do with their very own time machine. My guess would be something in the vein of plopping into the middle of the Hebrew Exodus with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s to see if manna worked as a topping for Cherry Garcia ice cream.

For the record, I’ve been to a few other countries, but I didn’t find them significantly more enlightened or barbaric than parts of our own country. After all, we live in a very big one, full of many ways of life. Just because someone’s been to Miami, New York City and Orlando, it doesn’t make them well-travelled here at home, and one stop off in Amsterdam certainly doesn’t give a perspective on “other countries” any more than a weekend in San Diego gives someone a perspective on Southern Missouri or Atlantic City.

The irony is, these same “cultured” Americans who have been to a few places over seas, are also likely the ones who are thrilled when they call home and are asked, “What time is it over there?” They were probably also only 24 hours in a foreign land before they asked directions to McDonalds to see if a Big Mac tasted the same over there.

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