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On the Road and Enjoying Americana

By Ben Stein's DREEMZ   |   Friday, 15 Oct 2010 08:13 AM

I know this goes slightly against the grain, but here it is anyway: I am out and about in glorious America pretty much around the calendar and around the clock. I travel to speak, to do commercials, to find secluded spots to write, to visit old friends.

Much goes wrong with these travels, especially in terms of hotel rooms. It seems to be a rule of hotels to give me the worst room in the house as the first one they send me to.

Only after I yell and scream for a half-hour do they give me a mildew-free, quiet, well-lit room.

However, it is amazing to me how much goes right — in travel and much of other daily life. I am not speaking about politics. We all know that’s screwed up, and we all know that media coverage of politics is a bad joke of adulation of liberals and sneering at conservatives.

We also know that the economy has been badly handled by the previous administration and by the current administration. Just as business starts to poke its head up to think about hiring and getting up some courage to face the government, along comes Mr Obama to state — with no evidence that I know of — that the main business trade association, The United States Chamber of Commerce, is fueling election contests with illegal donations of foreign money.

Any businessman with an ounce of caution will be extremely reluctant to take on new commitments for employment in a world where he is clearly hunted prey for the government.

But what I am talking about here is getting a meal: it is amazingly easy and cheap to go into any fast-food restaurant and get a decent meal.

Here in Sunny Cal where I mostly live, I get the best chicken I have ever had in my life for a few dollars in a Charbroiled Barbecue Chicken Sandwich at Carl’s, Jr.

In the East, I get amazingly great fried chicken at Roy Rogers.

In the South, I gorge myself on waffles at The Waffle House. This food comes out fast, hot, and delicious. And it’s virtually free.

Getting from point A to point B is a lot easier and better than it used to be, too. I do not want to jinx myself, but I can well recall as a young trial lawyer trying to get from New York back to my home in Washington and having endless problems and delays.

I can well recall even a decade ago flying across the country and routinely having my flights canceled even on the most major airlines.

There are many fewer flights now, and many of them are on cramped, painfully small commuter planes. But it’s rare for them to be late, and for this, we travelers are grateful.

The people on the planes are a lot more polite, too. Two decades ago, there were always a few wildly drunk men or women on the plane yelling and screaming, often in obscene language. Now, that has become almost unheard of.

The worst sin passengers can commit, playing cards and shuffling them over and over again, making a noise like chalk on a chalkboard — that is rare, too. It sometimes happens, but it’s unusual.

The restrooms at airports seem to me to be cleaner and less horrifying than they used to be. I won’t dwell on this point or go into detail.

There is better food at airports than there used to be. Some unknown company called something vague that I cannot recall used to run the restaurants at airports. Now there are cheerful McDonald’s restaurants and Starbucks and Burger Kings and California Pizza Kitchens in most waiting areas at aerodromes.

To me, and here I truly pray that I am not jinxing myself because I am about to go on a long trip on an immense freeway, it seems as if the highways are less crowded. The gas stations and fast food places along the way are cleaner and friendlier.

You can get a really great meal at Taco Bell almost anywhere in the West and get your gas tank filled nearby without any aggravation at all.

Now, you may say, Oh, that is so trivial. What counts is who wins elections. But this daily life is what life is made of. And while in many ways, America is falling apart, in many ways, it’s better and smoother functioning than it ever was before.

Let’s be grateful. Better living day by day is not a small thing.

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