Different strokes for different folks, right? That’s sort of the modern mantra for the idea that in today’s world, anything goes. Differing opinions are just fine, so long as you don’t question someone’s right to have that opinion. Of course, that idea doesn’t really apply to everything. Sometimes, someone else is just plain wrong, and you just have to let them know it.
Really, there’s nothing more American than telling someone else that something they did or said wasn’t, well, very American. Mayonnaise on pizza, for example? Yeah, that’s just un-American. Driving a small car? What are you, a commie? No hotdogs on the Fourth of July? Sinful!
So it is that when Reddit users were asked share some of their “I’m sorry, I thought this was America” stories, their responses were perhaps as face-palm inducing as you might expect.
Here are a few of their responses that will leave your head scratching — with a nice bit of analysis to provide the requisite background for our foreign friends.
“I put my barrels out Tuesday morning for trash pickup that afternoon and brought them back in late in the morning on Wednesday. On Friday, I got a letter in the mail from my HOA with a fucking photo of my barrels in the street warning me that I was in violation for leaving them out overnight. That’s how they spend my HOA dues.” – /u/SteinbeckWasRight
“When the HOA decided that we could not throw trash away in the trash cans next to the park/pool area. I’m not talking about giant trash bags, I mean pizza boxes and food and such that one might have when at this area. Why? Because the self-appointed “chairman” of the recreation department doesn’t like taking out the trash more than once a week.” – /u/EatsAtomsRegularly
Ouch. There’s nothing more American than hating the Homeowners Association. But is this a truly American thing?
Yes, in fact. HOAs are a distinctly American creation, rising from what is known as “common-interest developments” or CIDs. The concept of the HOA did not always exist in the U.S., but the idea of an organization governing who could or could not buy homes in specific, planned housing communities did.
Indeed, the origination of the HOA in the US was for the purpose of dictating who was not allowed to purchase a home in certain areas. These housing “covenants” essentially forbade homeowners within those communities from selling their homes to people of certain races, typically non-whites. The U.S. Supreme Court rules these illegal back in 1948, but they still existed into the late 1960s in various forms.
Currently, HOAs govern an increasingly large number of housing communities. Over 25 million Americans live in houses and neighborhoods governed by more than 300,000 HOAs nationwide. For better or worse, HOAs are as American as it gets.
“Trying to buy wine after 12am when I first moved to Texas but was told I can’t.” – /u/WTF_GOING_ON_HERE
“I visited North Carolina and we couldn’t buy wine before 12:00 noon on a Sunday. Sorry for trying to get the shopping done early.” – /u/sibtalay
Oh, America. How soon we forget the dark years between 1920 and 1933. America is certainly not the only country that has, or has had, bans on Alcohol. As one other user noted in response to this post, other countries, such as Ireland, also have certain timed restrictions on selling alcohol. In the case of Ireland, “Off-license” sales of alcohol are not permitted after 10:30 AM to 10:00 PM. Normal license sales are permitted, however.
In the U.S., however, the relationship with alcohol has always been a bit strained. In the mid-1600s, Plymouth Colony placed rather heavy spirits sales restrictions on everyone exception new arrivals or those just passing through. In the 1700s and 1800s, the evils of “intemperance”, e.g., drunkenness, were a constant source of discussion. One prominent black abolitionist and writer, William Whipper, wrote in 1834 an essay titled “The Slavery of Intemperance” in which he argued that slavery of the black race was intertwined with abuse of alcohol. His conclusion? Get rid of alcohol and you get rid of slavery.
It was Prohibition, however, which truly defines America’s relationship with alcohol. For 13 long years, between 1920 and 1933, the U.S. not only banned alcohol, but created a constitutional amendment (later to be repealed by another amendment) to ban the sale and consumption of all spirits. Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes the U.S. made in the 20th century, banning alcohol did more harm than good, creating a perfect storm for the Mob and effectively turning many people who would otherwise have not been criminals into drug smugglers.
Many cities and counties across the U.S. still have some forms of prohibition in place. Known as “dry country”, these areas still forbid the sale of alcohol, or severely limit its sale.
Is it very American to limit and ban alcohol? You bet. But we’re certainly not alone in that, either.
“My grandfather, his brother, and a friend were kicked out of an all you can eat chicken shack in the 50s for eating too much chicken. When they refused to leave as it was all you can eat, the owner called the law and had them escorted out.” – /u/BlumpkinsGravy
All-you-can-eat buffets — America’s great joy and our great shame. Restaurants like Golden Corral might have helped expand American waistlines, but they weren’t always typically American. At least, not in concept. The concept of the buffet exists in many different cultures around the world, predating the distinctly American version at that.
The Swedish Smorgasbord originated among high society Swedes in the 14th century, eventually developing into a more organized form of a large meal. Still, the Swedes never imagined (and probably never wanted to) the turn it would take when the concept hit American shores. After they brought the concept to the U.S. in the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, the very idea of endless, serve-yourself meals took off.
The all-you-can-eat buffet is actually attributed to one man: Herb MacDonald, a Las Vegas Strip publicist who, in the 1940s, inexplicably attracted late-night gamblers to a large tray of cheese and cold cuts he was using to make a sandwich at the bar. He ran with the idea, selling all-you-can-eat meals for $1.25. The idea took off, and eventually spread well outside of Vegas.
Is it American? Yes and no. While the idea of a buffet is certainly not, the idea of endless, gluttonous meals on the cheap certainly is. And unfortunately, the all-you-can-eat buffet is now distinctly intertwined with American history.