Along the same lines as my last post, I have been pondering the American obsession with safety. We seem to believe that if we just have enough laws, we'll be safer. I would not only concede, but affirmatively propose, that certain labor laws have made a huge difference in the safety of the American worker. However, I'm talking about little things like laws requiring bike helmets and that your water heater not be set above 120 degrees.
Random thought #1a: I really wonder - what kills more people per annum - head injuries from bike accidents or asthma or other smog-related illnesses from car exhausts?
We Americans are a vain society and part of the reason that the "Bike to Work" movement hasn't taken off is the fact that, at least for women, we don't want to show up at work with "helmut head." I'll be posting a picture in this space on Monday of all the Dutch workers heading to their jobs on bikes - wearing suits, skirts, high heels and the like, all while yapping on their cell phones and steering their bikes with one hand. Sans helmuts, I'll point out. Until then, here are a couple of photos that give you a sense of how prevalent bike transportation is here.
Random thought #1b: This city is designed for pedestrians and bikes. In fact, there are bike lanes on most of the streets or sidewalks. In this picture, you can see it clearly. The gray areas on the sidewalk are for pedestrians and the red-bricked area
is the bike path. It's difficult to remember to stay out of the bike path and to remember to look both ways before crossing over it. The bikes are silent so checking first is important.
Random thought #3: I'd also like to point out that the hot water heater in the building I live in must be at least 180 degrees (when you consider that Starbucks brews their coffee at around 190 degrees). Of course, I could be wrong on my guesstimate, but I will say that it is very hot. If I fill the sink with straight hot water from the tap to do dishes, I can spend 15-20 minutes on the computer before returning to do the dishes and the water is barely cool enough to touch. I don't know if all the Dutch keep their water heater this hot - perhaps the building management got sick of students complaining that they were running out of hot water - but I do know that there is no way this would be "allowed" in America.
Random thought #4: The Dutch are a healthy and hearty people - and they don't refrigerate their eggs. No kidding! Here's a picture to prove it. Of course, I'm trying to assimilate as much as possible into the Dutch culture so I have a box of six eggs sitting in my kitchen cupboard as we speak. In fact, I scrambled two for breakfast this morning and I'm not dead yet. The French don't refrigerate their eggs either. Do the British? Are we Americans the only ones? Why did the custom begin? I mean, eggs aren't refrigerated when they are sitting beneath some chicken's bum, so why do they have to be when the eggs are in my house?