During Christmas, the only table open one morning at Starbucks placed me next to the condiment bar (cream, vanilla, cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg, etc.). With all the fly-drives to Florida and whistle-stop tours of America I witness from the vantage of hosting foreign guests at Erehwon Retreat, I realized this morning that if you want to discover the essence of American diversity sitting next to the condiment bar will not widen the gulf but rather provide new insights.
Once guests have gotten over their amazement at the size of everything—from mountains, to prairies, to portions of food, to the super-sized Tastee Freeze stands—a still more bewildering syndrome afflicts them: the geographic diversity. For example, in West Ashley there’s a lot more latte sold than coffee, likewise the crayfish in Cajun lowlands is a lot different than dining at the Crab Claw in St. Michael’s, Maryland.
One can never form close bonds with 311 million Americans, but taking notes on what guests talk about during their visit—number one is variety, followed by contrariety, and, most important, the discovery that there are plenty of folks who are not only simpatico, but are also indistinguishable from those they left at home.
East is east and west is west, and while the twain may meet, perhaps its at Starbucks condiment bar.