..[Los Angeles without a car, work permit or superpowers]

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pestilent Beasts

Recently, the cats have been interrupting their standard position (reclining manatee) to scratch vigorously. Fleas. Aside from this being disgusting, it’s really disgusting because both cats are indoors-only. This means either Dr Strangename or I brought in the pestilence. How horrible -- I blame Dr Strangename, of course, due to his recent predilection for hanging around Parisian flophouses and the Haight-Ashbury.

I go to Petco in search of pharmaceuticals: drops, sprays, tablets, flame-throwers.  There is the usual Germany/USA retail culture shock. Here comes the national stereotyping.

In Germany, whenever you wish to purchase anything, there will invariably be two options*: the expensive one that costs a year's salary but can be bequeathed to your grandchildren, or the cheap one that is already broken. Both options will be hideous, and served to you with unconcealed disdain by a shop clerk who is operating secure in the knowledge that little, short of murder-suicide, can get you fired in the Socialist Republic. You must to hurry up and making your choose, schnell, because the shop is closing in half an hour and won’t reopen until Monday; the clerk is already deciding whether to spend his undeserved Sunday off Nordic walking, strolling around the city centre in a fur coat looking in the windows of closed department stores, or drinking Killepitsch in the local Schloss Schänke. Oh, and I suppose you want a bag for that, too? Prut. 

(*The only exceptions to the two-options rule are a) preserved meats and b) beers, because in Germany you cannot possibly have enough varietals of preserved meats and beers.)

In America, of course, it’s well documented that too much is never enough. I like this philosophy, despite its potential for ruining the character and waistline. But I cannot choose between forty brands/forms of flea zapper. Trying to pick a mid-price black mascara from thirty different types of mid-price black mascara makes me tearful, and I know something about mascara.

And, dear god, there’s all the other stuff, too. This Petco is bigger than our local supermarket in Germany. There’s kitten shampoo and dander-reducing serum, and I don’t know what a dander is. Maybe we do have too much. In the toy section they’re selling a thing in a bag called a Thing In A Bag©. I chance upon the Booda Dome Clean Step Litterbox©, reduced to $32.99: ‘Scoop Up The Savings!’ (not to mention the cat shit). Then there’s the Littermaid Elite©, an automatically self-cleaning tray, advertised at $60 as The World’s Greatest Litterbox©. But what about The Universe's Greatest Litterbox? Is it here? Is it in development? Can I get a discount coupon?

Eventually I come over all European, buy a $2 flea comb, and walk back down Westwood Boulevard. Because some of Dr Strangename’s European travel expenses have been reimbursed -- don’t get me started on the pyramid scheme that is academic travel, necessitating us to shell out for international flights and hotels then eat beans for months while we dream of the big payback -- I atone for the fifty hours a week I spend reading in Barnes and Noble, and actually stop in to buy two books. One is even full price. On the way out I’m discomforted to see that the ‘For Mom’ selection of the week is apparently ‘Surviving a Shark Attack (On Land)’, a self-help book about betrayal (including some pleasing intimations that adulterers, having broken the covenant of marriage, can be trusted with no further public duties and should presumably just be pushed out to sea on an ice-float). Recommended ‘For Dad’ is ‘It’s Not Really About The Hair’, the memoir of an gay Australian beautician turned American reality show star.

Maybe when my work permit arrives I’ll apply for a job at Barnes and Noble.

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