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03 July, 2009

Socialism means clean rest stops

What do you think of, when you think about rest stops on the beautiful highways of America?

Well, I think about dirty nasty restrooms, trucks, beef jerky and other assortments of the unhealthiest snacks on the planet. I think about fast food chains like Popeye's and Sbarro, which are so repellent, that they are virtually relegated to highway stops. I think about specimens of the human race that seem so abhorrent and aberrant, that I wonder how there are not actually other definable sub-species of Homo sapiens. I suppose there are. I mean, it's not that we technically can't breed with them, but we sure as hell won't breed with them, and that's got to count for something, doesn't it?

That's the slice of America that you get driving down our interstate highways.

Contrast this, if you will, with Austria. On my recent trip there, let me tell you what I found at each of the autobahn rest stops. We were reluctant, when driving across Austria, to settle for stopping for lunch at the rest stop. We knew it was going to be nasty, of course. And we had no choice. We were hungry, needed to use a restroom, and didn't want to drive 30 kilometers toward nowhere, looking for something. So, we bit the bullet, and stopped. And what did we find? I honestly do not believe I can describe this to you in a way that would be believable. We parked our Smart car, entered the rest stop facility, and encountered a giant marketplace that could only be described as something that would make you turn your nose up at Whole Foods or PCC. The rest stop had fresh fruits, baked goods, a Cafe, prepared foods, fresh pastas cooked to order that had just come out of a pasta machine, wines, gelato, the list goes on. It was some sort of fantasy land of rest stops. And the people? They looked like you and me. Well, like me, anyway. I don't know what the hell you look like. And they wanted a good lunch, or a snack. And they got it. And the prices were not unreasonable. And the food quality was excellent. And the people were nice, not to mention that they spoke English.

This happened at two different rest stops. The second rest stop was even more fancy. We did, unfortunately, get yelled at by someone for attempting to photograph the pasta machine. I am not sure why, and I don't know what he said, but I think he just didn't want to be on camera and was probably sick of Americans, who were seen being rude to all, in every direction. That was the one downside of these rest stops, was that there were tour buses full of Americans, and I was quickly reminded of why it is that we are not loved everywhere that we go. Maybe it's because we have a sense of entitlement, and an attitude of superiority, which is woefully ironic, since the best I can tell is that we could learn a lot from European culture. Instead, it seems we picked all the worst elements of it, and adopted those as our platform for the nation.

It occurred to me during my trip that you can probably tell a lot about a country's attitudes and priorities by visiting places such as rest stops, where the only reason to invest in such a thing would be because of a sense of duty, pride, or obligation. A sense that people deserve to have quality and options that are not dehumanizing. I don't know if that's part and parcel of what socialized democracy is all about? Or if it's just that America's highways got left behind, because about half of our tax revenue (which, I might add, is lower than most other countries to start with) is thrown at the military.

If you look at the rest stop as a barometer of the nation's concern for basic well-being of its citizens, and the degree of pride in always being at least "acceptable", then this country is not receiving very high marks.

But you probably already knew that.

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