*I am not sponsored by the United States and have not accepted any bribe to write this article. Which doesn’t mean I'm not willing to accept any*
I love Umm-merica. There, I've said it. Since the buses in Los Angeles have no schedule whatsoever (they can't be accused of being late, then) I wrote most of this whilst waiting for the 181 heading to Pasadena. During the intervening period I carried out a steadfast ritual of mine when in the US, namely wandering around aisles of boundless….stuff! The local CVS Pharmacy of Eagle Rock was, as per usual, ten times bigger than it needs to be, with vast shelves of exactly the same product, all priced and packaged minutely differently. This adds to my conviction that although in our patriarchal society men may own the stores, its women that own the men. In my world, if I need (not want) something to make my hair less greasy, I will pick the bottle labelled 'shampoo' and hope it doesn't leave me smelling like a whore's boudoir. In America there are at least fifty trillion bottles promising the user no dandruff, another providing a glossy finish, another catering for dry hair, for coloured hair, for hair that is unruly, for hair that steals from your wallet, and for hair that has will make your penis five times bigger! These Americans are so gullible, it's bloody shampoo!
Back out on the hot tarmac, after 30 minutes sweltering in the sun and regretting every second of wearing jeans, my carriage pulled up: my first Los Angeles omnibus. Giving my bus token to the driver, I had hoped for zany bells or whistles or remarks that I must practically be a native with my intricate knowledge of public transport payment methods, but alas. I much prefer public transport generally as it gives you time to relax and take in your surroundings, all hopefully whilst not getting mugged. Zooming along the streets, the cars have definitely been on a diet since I was here five years ago: far fewer Cadillac's, many more hatchbacks, yet still never a taxi to be seen for bloody miles. People noticing (less lecherous than 'people watching', I feel) is another favourite of mine, particularly in California of all States where everything is made far easier: you don't have to guess at people's life story, they just tell you. Men will, at any juncture, whether wearing normal clothes or wearing their grandmother's dress, start telling complete strangers their entire personal journey. Usually that person is me, but today the bus driver was the fortuitous one. In nary 4 stops I and everyone else on board learnt from his carrying voice that he recently moved here from Santa Monica, he hasn't been here long enough to know the bus routes, he likes his McDonalds (and a few other peoples McDonalds given the size of him) and in particular their fish burgers. Our friend, let's call him Bob, is staying at the shelter in Pasadena but doesn't like it because of the alcoholics and drug addicts there, and he doesn't approve of that since he used to be one. That’s a lot to learn about someone speaking aloud on a bus, isn't it? Keep reading. Incidentally, you may be questioning what the driver had said to spark such a detailed expose, and that would be "yes, this does bus does go to Pasadena". Bobby's tipple, since you were wondering, was whisky, wine and beer, he used to drink that a lot, but he hasn't drank recently, not even on his 58th birthday last year. This September he's going to be 59, so please make a note. Bob's favorite park is the one down the road from our most recent stop because they have good McDonalds there, that’s where the fish is the best. Think the price of fish has gone up? You're damn right it has, Bob has the proof! In the 1970's it used to be 90 cents! Where has Bob been since the 1970's? Perhaps in the hospital he's just come out from. At this point almost everyone on the bus nodded 'ohh…well that explains it'. I would dearly have loved to continue listening to Bob and no doubt many other Tales from America, but with barely enough time to grab my penis enlarging shampoo, I had reached my stop.