Thursday, 3 December 2015

God Bless America: Part III

I have a habit of continuously checking quality of my work. Though I am not jotting down my impressions and observations for mass communication, I am keeping an eye on how many of my friends have retained their interest in reading what I write. The second part shows decline. I may still wait before undertaking root cause analysis and carrying out mid-course corrections.

Let me get back to definition of Culture and relive what we saw, heard and experienced, for the time being. That will also provide some respite to those who may not appreciate theories much.

Your first impression of any place could be based on, if you are observant, what you see from air while landing, that is if you are flying in. And the first impression about my port of landing was “how can the streets be so geometrically aligned?” What you see from air when you come close to landing at O’Hare air port is perfect (almost) rectangles created on ground by a grid of streets. I could not take the picture, since I was not in window seat, but have borrowed image from Google Earth. This one is from a height of about 1000 ft.

Though yellow lines are not streets, if you enlarge this image, you will find perfect rectangles of plots made by streets. In fact the network is based on grid and streets are numbered such that the address can be used to find the distance between two points.

The road network in Chicago, our first port of calling, was so interesting; I looked for some details and found that Chicago's streets were laid out in a grid that grew from the city's original town site plan. Streets laid initially later became arterial streets in outlying sections. The streets are laid out with eight streets to the mile in one direction and 16 streets to a mile in the other direction. A scattering of diagonal streets, many of them originally trails, also cross the city.

The road naming/ numbering and house address system adopted by the city and extended to suburbs is so methodical, that one needs to know house number and street number/ name with an extension of North- South or East – West. The Street numbering is East – West of State Street and which runs north and south, and north – south of Madison Street, which runs east and west.

And this is not true of just Chicago, all the places we visited had similar character. Wikipedia has pages full of how Americans handle their roads from planning to sizing to maintaining and how do they plan their cities and counties to enhance public conveniences.

I was thinking about what is that distinguishing character of USA, which makes such planned layouts possible to the extent of being extremely predictable? How can the Freeways or Highways as we call them, be running straight in one direction for miles on without having even a 5 degree bend?  I believe the underlying pride among citizens to sacrifice own interests in favor of city or state and integrity of the public servants could be the reasons. I believe if decisions in public life are taken in individual interest, as against in interest of common good, such decisions will result in crocked roads, unplanned development and resultant public hardships.

My conclusions are, Americans behave more responsibly when it comes to society and public good, than us Indians. They do not have small temples and durrgahs to be shielded and protected. They perhaps do not have private plots of land to be retained in the shape the powerful owner wants to retain. They perhaps care for nature and natural heritage more and provide all that is necessary for protecting nature, storm water drainage, forest reserves, green belts, you name all.  

The other commonly known differentiating aspect, the driving discipline and traffic mannerism, is my next point of interest. Let me do some study and come back with concret stuff.

Till then, please comment and keep me awake.

I must appreciate a younger friend from USA, also one of our host, who insists I must keep writing and in fact demands.

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