In Impromptus and elsewhere, I have griped and griped about a certain inhospitableness in America. You may remember this tale: One day, I went to the Sears Tower, to meet a friend of mine. We were going to go out — go back to his place, actually. He worked in the building, and I wanted to meet him in the lobby. I had been traveling for a long time — I think from the Middle East, for some reason. I was tired.
In the vast lobby, there were no chairs, no benches — no places to sit at all. Where I had just come from, they might kill you, but you would have a place to sit, and they would likely offer you a cup of tea and a cake. In the Sears Tower lobby, I went to sit on my suitcase — a suitcase that had gone through security screening. The guards forbade it. You could not sit on your own suitcase in the lobby. And they offered you no place to sit.
I went outside, muttering, “Is this the most inhospitable, rules-insane country on the planet, or what?” I know, I know: They don’t want bums camping out in the lobby. But they don’t have the nerve, because of political correctness, to keep the bums out and let others sit.
With Norwegian friends, I bring up this general subject: of ease and informality versus difficulty and rules, etc. They love the Anglo world, and they hesitate to criticize: but they tell me that, when they’ve traveled in Britain and the U.S., they’ve been amazed at the red tape. All the red tape to untangle, all the hoops to jump through.
And the Continent is supposed to be the place where you’re regulated to death!