Thursday 17 February 2011

Sleepless in Seattle - part 1

Right, where to begin. The weekend before last my husband and I abandoned the children to one of the lovely people who I sailed across the ocean with (thanks Blue) and headed off on a plane to Seattle. This was not a holiday. This was a reconnaissance mission to answer the big questions: Could we live there? Could we leave behind all of our friends and the limited family we have here? Could we raise American children? Could we start from scratch all over again?

With these not insignificant questions weighing heavily on our minds, we set off. Luckily we managed to get upgraded to premium economy and then again to business class. So at least we arrived relatively well rested.

A friend of mine had arranged for us to stay at a work colleague's apartment for the duration of our stay as he was out of town. His apartment was right in down town Seattle, two blocks from the famous Space Needle, so it was a great base.

After a restless night - both of us wide awake at 3am - we began our day. This involved turning the TV on. Except it wasn't a TV. It was a media centre and required a PhD in electronics to figure it out. But we got there in the end. And bam! There it was. American TV. Worse than that. Local American news. Let me explain how that works:

The hosts (perfectly coiffed, none of that hardly done UK-style hair) obviously had Starbucks loyalty cards and were on their tenth grande latte of the day. Because they were perky. Very. And crap. Now admittedly it was the day after Superbowl Sunday, so that subject was going to dominate a fair share of the news. But the 'news' stories ran as follows:
- the actual Superbowl result and game
- deep analysis of which superbowl ads were best
- a bit more about which of the ads were best
- a bit about which of the ads were worst
- further deep analysis of which merchandise at the superbowl sold best
- commentary from fans about the superbowl
- commentary from the players/coaches about the superbowl
- the earnings made as a result of the superbowl
- speculation about what next year's superbowl will be like
- a repeat of all of the above
- the fact the US teens are snorting a new drug - bath salts - two mentions
- the funeral of a female police officer who had been shot - brief mention

Now please understand that none of these stories ran consecutively. There would be one of the above items, followed by the weather lady who had obviously had even more caffeine than the hosts. She managed to tell the same day's weather in at least 12 different ways. I particularly liked the way she said that a band of rain was 'scooching its way over the city'. Can you imagine the BBC's Carol Kirkwood saying: 'Well folks, you all are gonna want pack a rain fleece today as we've got a cold front scooching in over Wales.' Probably not.

After manic weather lady, we had even more manic traffic guy who had a very handy dandy map which showed which roads were moving well vs being jammed to a halt. The man spoke about a billion words a minute and felt quite passionate about jams, pleading with the cars in that area to 'sort their stuff out'.

While all of this was going on, there was the normal news ticker running across the bottom only with the addition of a big fat logo (Pepperidge Farm I think it was). Nice. Branded news. The mugs the presenters drank out of were branded too. And if that wasn't enough branding for you, they interrupted the news every 3 minutes for 5 minutes of ads.

Suffice to say that by the time we headed out doors in search of a coffee of our own (and in Seattle you are always sure to find one within three steps), I already had my reservations. It was going to be a long four days....


nappy valley girl said...

Haha, welcome to the world of US mainstream news.

We never watch it - unless we want to have a laugh. If you move, make sure you get BBC America World News as part of your cable package. And listen to NPR radio - the US equiv. of Radio 4.

Nicola said...

Ha! Ha! Yes! I really had forgotten just how bad it is. I was in shock for at least the first year I was in Chicago. I must admit here - after the first month I NEVER watched TV news or read an American paper. Never. Not once. Not in the next 10 years. And the calibre of TV presentation is so corny and artificial...there is a veneer of superficiality in the US that I could never quite stomach, I'm afraid.

Music Bugs said...

We also stayed just outside Chicago for a while (in Naperville)and quickly learnt to avoid American television. The only thing we could reasonably stomach were back to back episoded of Fraser and the occasional weather forecast but even that was peppered with constant ad breaks.

It was noticeable that 'the outside world' just didn't seem to exist according to the press. We were there during the World Cup and once the USA went out, coverage stopped entirely!

Iota said...

The really bad news is that BBC America launched, and seemed the perfect antidote. But then it started charging, and went right downhill, so we decided it wasn't worth the money. There was a short glorious era, though, when you could get good quality free news.

TV news kind of sums up everything that's wrong with America. All those adverts drive me mad. And that ticker tape. It's just life on steroids, with no intelligent thought, and hairstyles and make-up that don't move.

Look forward to hearing your other Seattle experiences.

laurie said...

this post is very funny. and very familiar.

laurie said...

oh---and my sister, who lives in seattle, gets CBC (canadian) news. you're close enough to the border so that you don't have to watch american news.