Bryson really is a stranger by himself as he looks at modern American life from two perspectives - that of a foreigner coming to America and that of an older American reminiscing on the good old days. Many people can say they’ve experienced culture shock visiting or living in a different country, just as many people can think about America’s past and see how complex and involved life has gotten here. But very few can see modern America from both perspectives. This is what makes Bryson’s humor so universal and relatable. Anyone who has ever set foot in America can understand our complicated system of doing things and the humor surrounding the absurdity of American ways.
Anyone just visiting or recently moving to America would laugh out loud and find Bryson’s book to be extremely relatable. What other country sells millions of ridiculous, useless items like Do the Macarena Totally Nude, calls random strangers to convince them to buy a time share, and stores open 24 hours? Through humor, Bryson points out how ridiculous and wasteful some aspects of American life are. This both comforts visitors and enlightens natives about just how crazy our culture appears to outsiders.
On the other hand, Bryson is able to talk about how America has changed over time. I found this point particularly present in the part about motels. He reminded me of my granddad when he talks about the good old days. I appreciated the humorous way in which Bryson talks about how when he was growing up each motel “had its own character”, giving “highway travel a kind of exhilarating unpredictability”. This idealized version of the past seems even more idealized when Bryson talks about how today’s motels are all the same or disgusting and torn down. My favorite part, however, of this chapter is when Bryson admits how these opinions make him dated when he tells his child, who is not named Jimmy, “We don’t want a Comfort Inn, Jimmy. We want a real motel”. This story really brings to attention how commercialized America has become and the humor that can be found in things with character.