June 22, 2004 by Allen George
Having lived in San Diego for oh…almost two months…I thought it would be interesting to put together a list of items I’ve found…unusual about my temporary home.
- You’re allowed to do u-turns on a left turn signal. Yup – by default. Some places even have signs explaining exactly which lane you can do the u-turn in (closest to median).
- For a state that’s supposed to be one of the biggest sources of produce in the Union, there’s damn little of it in the supermarkets. And talk about the prices…they border on extortion. You have no idea how much more I appreciate the produce section at my local Sobeys/Zehrs/A&P now that I’ve seen what’s here.
- Bread is expensive. Very expensive – especially whole wheat bread. Yesterday (praise be!) I managed to find the first loaf of whole wheat bread for under $3.50 US. At only $2 it was practically a steal.
- Liquor is sold everywhere. In the gas station, at convenience stores. Heck…even the local supermarket has 2 large aisles devoted entirely to wines and liquor and a cold storage for beer.
- Transit sucks. Some buses that I have to take run exactly once in the day. You’d think it was some sort of cruel joke but no…it’s not. They make one big loop and if you don’t catch it…well. Better hope your friends don’t mind driving you.
- Serving sizes are a lot larger here (have you ever seen a 100 oz. mug in Canada?) and there’s a lot more sugar in every product. Yes, I notice this. Yes, I can be classified as a ‘picky eater’.
- Outdoor malls. A normal mall…without a roof :-) The truth is however, that after the novelty wears off – they’re just another mall. Unfortunately, the lack of a roof means that the mall doesn’t really manage to ‘keep’ the shopping atmosphere. The moment it starts getting dark, the mass migration happens.
- There’s no one in UTC (University Towne Center mall) after 7:45. Weird but true. It’s a mall and it looks deserted. Even Bramalea City Centre (in my hometown Brampton) has a lot more life in it all the way till closing time. I ascribe this to the failure of the outdoor mall concept ;-) They’re reminding people of what time it is, as opposed to creating an artificial ‘always up’ atmosphere.
- Coffee’s king. This I expected. What I didn’t expect was the absolute shite that passes as an acceptable tea here. The brew of choice? Lipton Brisk Tea.
Brisk is one thing its not. This is the weakest, absolutely most Godawful travesty that could be foisted on tea drinkers everywhere. I expect my tea to be dark and flavorful. Instead Lipton, after brewing for close to 20 minutes is lighter than my tisanes.
- Electric kettles. Four department stores and two malls. Cheapest kettle: $52. Apparently electric kettles are a novelty or an endangered species here.
- Frozen dinners cost a whole lot less than buying the raw ingredients. Yup – it’s true. If you expect it to be the other way around…keep waiting.
- 10 for 10. Bulk is in. Ever heard of the 10 for $10 deal? Neither did I till I came here. Apparently there’s an urgent need for 10 packages of hot dogs for $10. In fact, a key selling point for stores appears to be of the form “X items for $Y”. Where X > 2 and Y > $1.
- Where’s the Kraft peanut butter?
Newsflash: It’s not here. You’ll never find it here.
Apparently Kraft, being the giant US multinational that it is, has failed miserably in promoting their own brand of peanut butter in the US. The spread of choice? Jif.
- If you want to pay cash for gas be prepared to:
- Show your ID
- Pay for a specified amount in advance. (I believe you get refunded if you underfill.
- Apparently breast pumps are a hot selling item on Qualcomm’s internal classifieds. No, I shit you not.
- The tax rate is 8.25%. California is facing a massive budget deficit. Referendums have constrained the state government’s ability to change the education budget, the horribly low property tax rate and other significant sources of income. Solution: Bitch about it…and don’t touch my tax rate.
- There are at least 10 (yes count em…10) different standards at most ATMs. Apparently the banks couldn’t get their act together and agree to a common debit card standard (like Interac in Canada) so everything fragmented into a mess of incompatible ones (Coop, Star, Cirrus, Plus…).
Clever little buggers… They look like a VISA but they’re not! They’re actually a debit card. With a VISA number and symbol. That way you can use them at every place that accepts a VISA (almost everywhere) without worrying about your credit rating or the damn standards. Be careful though to specify “credit” (no, I agree…that doesn’t make sense) on checkout because otherwise you’ll get charged a POS fee.
Winners in this debacle? VISA
Losers in this debacle? Common sense
- Lack of good radio stations. Apparently San Diego is stuck in the backwaters of the broadcasting world. No good Euro or up-to-date rock/alternative to be found here.
Solution: Edge 102.1 streaming live from Toronto.
- The hallways in building AA (for Qualcomm) are wide enough to fit a Humvee. No – I don’t know why they built it like that. Maybe they were anticipating an invasion at some time.
- It’s illegal to drink in the States if you’re under 21.
Ok…let me get this straight. As of 18 I can get credit, get my own job as an adult, am trusted with the responsibility of voting a new government into power (thus impacting everyone) and…I can’t drink.
Yes, yes that makes a lot of sense.
- Push taps.
The first time I saw these, I thought they were a perverse joke. Press the tap, get a sprinkling of water for a few seconds and then stare as the tap shuts itself off. I guess that’s a good way to conserve water, considering that a majority of US males don’t bother washing their hands (and I have witnessed this). For me, it presents a challenge because…well…because I like to wash my hands under hot water for at least 15 seconds.
How do I manage?
Amusingly… Very amusingly. Let’s just say an elbow, a few contortionist moves, a sense of good humor and lack of embarrassment enter into play.
I can see the blank looks already. Imagine speed bumps. Now consider the reverse. That’s right speed dips. Don’t know why there are dips in the road. Don’t know why a sign saying ‘DIP’ points them out. All I know is that its the first time I’ve seen one of those.
- Cruiser bikes. Very, very big in PB. It’s hard for me to describe these things and I can’t seem to find a picture that describes it accurately. Suffice it to say that they’re retro, curvy, lots of chrome and have the most…um…interesting handlebar configuration I’ve seen.
And of course fate seems to have a sense of humor. It seems we managed to arrive just in time for the famed ‘June gloom’ where for the entire month of June (and part of May) San Diego is covered by clouds and the temperatures drop into the teens. Heck, if I wanted this weather, I’d be in Canada during March/April. And I think I’ll snap at the next person who tells me:
“Gee, it must be a lot warmer here than up there in Canada.”
Well no. Not quite.
Feel free to add anything you’ve found odd about where you live/work.