My US paradox: why are the shops so nice but the politics so nasty?

It's the American way to look good in politics by putting other candidates down.

Share
Related Topics

This notebook comes to you from Chicago, a ridiculously lovely city, full of pride in industry and progress.

It’s also full of shops where you pay sales tax but get discounts, so everything ends up costing almost exactly what it says on the sales ticket, except you now have a purse full of tiny coins, and a mild curvature of the spine.

I came to speak about the meaning of life for 13 minutes at Chicago Ideas Week, which is easily the best gig I’ve ever been booked to do. It was a whole heap of fun, even if you don’t count the fact that when I was a comedian, I used to play a room above a pub to eight people, in Chertsey. Last week, I played the 2,200-seater Oriental Theater, and that (sorry, Chertsey) was better. Also in the old days, Deepak Chopra didn’t open the show.

I like America, mainly because every shop assistant is nicer to you than your relatives would be if you were at home in the UK. I like how positive everyone is: ask a yes/no question from a stage in Britain, and you get a yes/no answer. Ask the same question here, and you get a round of applause. It’s like a whole extra level of yes.

There are only a few things which vex me. The first is how every ad break on TV is full of commercials for medicines which may or may not cure a minor disease I have never heard of. The side-effects, without exception, seem to include a stroke, cancer and death. Health insurers do not make good television.  

The second vexing phenomenon is new to me, because I’ve never been here in the run-up to an election before. The political campaigning is relentless, and every bit of it is negative. I have always sighed on hearing the phrase, “There now follows a party political broadcast” after a curtailed news bulletin. But tiresome though they are, they do usually try to tell you something they believe to be positive about themselves. 

After five days of watching ceaseless accusations of insider dealing, sending jobs to China and (worst of all, it seems) building new offices in Wisconsin, everyone now seems terrible to me, even the candidates whose politics I share. I haven’t heard a single person claim to have done something well. Everyone just slags everyone else off. I’m beginning to see how voter turnout might be low next month.

Can the bottle. Restore the can

I am finicky about drinks. I don’t like hot drinks at all, so the delights of the pumpkin spiced latte have passed me by. I do, however, like Diet Coke (I know it is evil. Don’t write in.) I especially like it from a can, because the aluminium tastes so nice. I can’t defend this, it is simply true. But cans are increasingly hard to find, since the plastic bottle achieved total market domination.

I have long suspected that at least part of the obesity crisis is caused by the endless increase of sweet drinks in our lives. A can holds 330 millilitres. But a bottle holds at least half a litre, and in the US, they are 600ml at least. If you’re not drinking diet versions, that’s almost doubling the calories along with the volume. And that’s before all those lattes with their strange-smelling syrups.

So surely it’s time to relaunch the humble can, and use the saved calories on food, or booze, or something else nice instead.

www.nataliehaynes.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary