Best quotes from The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America

By Bill Bryson

9 Quotes    3.8 

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In this he was like most Midwesterners. Directions are very important to them. They have an innate need to be oriented, even in their anecdotes. Any story related by a Midwesterner will wander off at some point into a thicket of interior monologue along the lines of "We were staying at a hotel that was eight blocks northeast of the state capital building. Come to think of it, it was northwest. And I think it was probably more like nine blocks. And this woman without any clothes on, naked as the day she was born except for a coonskin cap, came running at us from the southwest... or was it the southeast?" If there are two Midwesterns present and they both witnessed the incident, you can just about write off the anecdote because they will spend the rest of the afternoon arguing points of the compass and will never get back to the original story. You can always tell a Midwestern couple in Europe because they will be standing on a traffic island in the middle of a busy intersection looking at a windblown map and arguing over which way is west. European cities, with their wandering streets and undisciplined alleys, drive Midwesterners practically insane.

In the morning I awoke early and experienced that sinking sensation that overcomes you when you first open your eyes and realize that instead of a normal day ahead of you, with its scatterings of simple gratifications, you are going to have a day without even the tiniest of pleasures; you are going to drive across Ohio.

And before long there will be no more milk in bottles delivered to the doorstep or sleepy rural pubs, and the countryside will be mostly shopping centers and theme parks. Forgive me. I don't mean to get upset. But you are taking my world away from me, piece by little piece, and sometimes it just pisses me off. Sorry.

Still, I never really mind bad service in a restaurant. It makes me feel better about not leaving a tip.

Why is it, I wondered, that old people are always so self-centered and excitable? But I just smiled benignly and stood back, comforted by the thought that soon they would be dead.

Eventually, mercifully, the waitress prised the spoons out of our hands and took the dessert stuff away, and we were able to stumble zombielike out into the night.

I became quietly seized with that nostalgia that overcomes you when you have reached the middle of your life and your father has recently died and it dawns on you that when he went he took some of you with him.

[Traveling] makes you realize what an immeasurably nice place much of America could be if only people possessed the same instinct for preservation as they do in Europe. You would think the millions of people who come to Williamsburg every year would say to each other, "Gosh, Bobbi, this place is beautiful. Let's go home to Smellville and plant lots of trees and preserve all the fine old buildings." But in fact that never occurs to them. They just go back and build more parking lots and Pizza Huts.

Sometimes it rained, but mostly it was just dull, a land without shadows. It was like living inside Tupperware.

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