Domestic Details

Rex's USA Diary

My Car, House and Garden

The first thing to strike this Kiwi visitor to the USA is how car-oriented the whole society is. With its giant land mass and many millions of citizens, I suppose the folk here spread out and live in suburban areas many miles apart. So to survive, one needs a car. To stay alive, one needs to learn how to drive on the right-hand side of the road. To not be a pest to others, one needs to develop speedway driving skills.


Cars tend to be large in size and engine capacity, and most people have automatic transmission. Those folk that don't drive cars have shiny, clean off-road vehicles that never do, shiny, clean trucks that never carry anything, or shiny clean Harley Davidson motorbikes.

Getting around requires carrying a map in your head. For instance, to get to my local computer store I take the 713 North, get onto the 100 West, exit at the Snowdon Parkway then turn onto Dobbin Road. It is about a 20 minute drive traveling at between 50 and 65 mph, all the while shuffling back and forward across many lanes of traffic.


Buying a car was an eye-opener! My neighbour said I should go to his friend at a company called Car-Max. I committed the road map to memory then took my life and my rental in my hands and zoomed out into the melee. At Car Max I found a giant multi-acre glass-fronted building and car sales yard with more acres of parking, with numbered and labelled parking areas in case you lose the car you arrive in. I walked into the building to see a line of salesmen ready to pounce!

Smiling Consumer Happiness Enablers

Computer terminals were everywhere so you could sort out the model of car you wanted and at the same time arrange your financing and loan payments. Nobody (but a Kiwi) would wander around in the heat looking at acres of the real thing.

At another car yard I found the vehicle I eventually purchased - a white Ford Taurus, which equates to a large Holden or Nissan Maxima in size. It had a 3.0 litre engine, power windows, seats and rear-view mirrors, air conditioning, automatic transmission, safety air bags, ABS brakes, etc. It took me one day to get a flat tire from a puncture. My boss now thinks I am a Jonah because a few days later he had his first flatty in 3 years so I got the blame.

My car - Ford Taurus


My house is called a townhouse, because it is connected wall to wall with four others in a row. It is an end unit which means I only have one party wall with a neighbour and it has three levels.

Townhouse front

The bottom level is a basement which has my guest bedroom, bathroom and laundry.

Guest bedroom

At ground level is my kitchen ...

The kitchen

...and combined dining/lounge area.

The lounge

Upstairs is the master bedroom and en-suite ...

Master bedroom

... with a spare room I use as an office.

Office bedroom

American houses are designed for extreme temperatures. They tend to have air-conditioning to cool or heat the house and small double glazed windows. That means inside can be a bit dim. Very few fixed lights are fitted, there being none in any of the bedrooms. To compensate, there are (110 volt) wall sockets everywhere, some of which are controlled by (upside-down) light switches. One buys a bundle of stand-alone lamps and plonks them around where they are needed.

There are lightweight screen doors at the front and back entrances, and I have a nice self-contained yard and back patio. I loved the upstairs office window - it was beautifully engineered! It was made of tough plastic (good insulation), had a built in screen (holds back bugs, tics and budgies when the window is open) and best of all it tilts so that you can clean the window from the inside - which I did every Sunday morning ( 8{O ).

Peaceful backyard

Most visitors were horrified that I had left the air-conditioning off and relied on gentle breezes flowing through the front and back doors to cool the house. I got away with that for a few days before the weather changed and it became too hot and sticky - I realised what everybody else had known all along. Use the air-con. Darn.