Breakfast for those who live and work in New York City normally includes a cup of coffee and two slices of toast. When they get ready to go to work, they unlock three locks with three different keys designed to keep thieves, robbers and murderers out of their homes.
The subway trains and city buses that take them to work are as crowded as early morning and evening city buses in Peking. Subway trains are dirty, full of foul odors and unsafe. Those working in inconvenient areas have to change buses or subway trains several times, spending at least an hour before reaching their office.
The Oriental way of life, marked by several leisurely, long hours of tea ceremonies, has no place in the American way of work. No one could be allowed to take a two-hour nap during the noon break. At lunchtime, which lasts one hour at most, some people just try to fill up their empty stomachs with tasteless food at snack bars.
As soon as lunch is over, they rush back to the office with no time left for picking their teeth. After office hours are over, they squeeze into the overcrowded buses or subway trains that, during the summer, are full of offensive armpit perspiration odors, marijuana smoke, and the smell of beer and cheap perfume. On the subway trains, one can see tired faces with eyes closed, and obscene scrawlings all over the walls. The smell of vaporized urine greets the arrivals at the subway stops.
Those who live in the outlying areas of the city may find the cars they left that morning at the station have been stolen, or that their four tires either have been stolen or slashed by juvenile delinquents. If their cars are still there and safe, they are lucky. Driving home, they can happily pick up the children from the day-care homes. If the worker is a housewife, once she returns home she has to cut thawed-out meat and get supper ready for her homecoming husband, in addition to caring for her children.
Later, she watches her favorite comics or other entertainment programs on television. Upon seeing a funny scene, she may turn to divert the attention of her husband from reading his newspaper or magazine on another sofa. When she does, she may find her husband dozing off to a sound sleep with an empty beer bottle resting near his stomach and his newspaper or magazine strewn all over the floor. Before she could have time to talk, he was already too tired to stay awake. The following day, this pattern of life is repeated.
If he is a bachelor, he may find his apartment robbed after reaching home; it was locked with three different keys, but he still could not keep the thieves out of it. This being the case, he is in no mood to do anything or fill his stomach with his cooking . . . He just slips into bed and starts to dream. When he wakes up, he may feel too hungry to wait for food cooked by himself. He again locks his doors with the three keys and takes the elevator down to an Italian food store and orders a pizza for supper, or goes to a Chinese restaurant and orders a plate of chow mein.
But one has to be extremely careful when deciding to use the elevator, where cases of robbery and rape often occur, especially in metropolitan New York's towering, unguarded apartment houses. Aware that remaining on the street too long at night is dangerous, he has no choice but to go quickly back to his small apartment. Once home, he may pick up his phone and call somebody for a chit-chat.
If the bachelor is a female, she may sit by her phone receiver, wishing that someone would call. If nobody does, she may feel too disappointed to do anything else but to comfort herself in her dreams.
Those living in the suburbs are mostly members of the upper-class society. Someone who is one of them does not have to catch the dirty subway train. He can enjoy a comfortable ride on a train or a long-distance bus. He opens his attache case to pore over some unfinished business or read The Wall Street Journal, especially its news of the stock market.
He simply could not ignore its ups and downs, because he has to pay the mortgage to maintain his wife's cosmetic treatment fees, physical fitness fees, expenses for clothes, club membership fees, and beauty parlor treatment, and their children's expensive private high school tuition, as well as the expenses for his own weekly visit to a psychiatrist or for the maintenance of a mistress somewhere in the downtown.
At home at night, the best relaxation for this American is a martini, supper with meat as its main course, and a good rest. Certainly his wife wants to talk to him, and his children want to consult their dad on some problems after he has been away for the day. But he says: "For your sake, I am awfully tired. Please leave me alone."
Perhaps he is a big company manager earning a salary of $100,000 per annum, capable of maintaining a luxurious home, owning a big car, spending a vacation in Florida during the winter and enjoying a cruise in a luxurious yacht on a calm lake during the summer. In order to enjoy these privileges, he has no choice but to keep making money. He does so for the sake of his wife and children.
But unfortunately, he ends up with nothing. In 1979, the divorce rate in the United States accounted for 50 percent of its marriage rate. Most of the broken families belong to the upper-class society.
Although this is not the whole picture of American life, you can see something through this kaleidoscope. Although Americans are known for their wasteful practices, they never waste time. They are interested in everything, but not in the slow and leisurely tempo of life cherished by Orientals. For someone to spend a whole afternoon fishing by a lakeside is unthinkable to most Americans. You must correctly understand their way of life, their concept of values and their basic social background, in which the weak succumb to the strong and against which extreme individualism has emerged. Knowing all this, you will benefit by learning from their strong points, but you should not be perplexed by what you will see.