Yes, there are the crying babies, the annoying drunks, the field trips, and college hockey teams. I even shared a redeye with the erstwhile WWF out of Seattle one night. But anyone who has done his or her fair share of air travel has encountered the most hated man on the plane. He’s the one who brings a piping hot pizza on-board a short flight as a pleasant reminder to his best friend of home. The smell wafts through the cabin, and you are forced to eat airplane cardboard-lunch while smelling pizza. The guy sometimes offers a slice to his seatmates, thinking this is the “right thing to do” and not realizing that it is (a) only making the scent travel more quickly down the length of the plane and (b) he isn’t nearly as original as he thinks he is for doing this.
No, I am not reminded of this because it recently happened to me. I’ve been safely on ground for the last few months. But a couple of days ago our friendly FedEx lady brought us a Dutch apple pie from the Julian Pie Company. I know, apples to upstate New York is a little like coals to Newcastle, but this pie is special. Julian is famous for bikers, weed, and pie, three things that seem to go together well. [Before I get any angry emails, I recognize that bikers get a bad rap, and that not all of them are heavy users. I can’t even count the number of times a biker has told me he ate pie once or twice, but it never really did anything for him.] The Dutch apple pie from JPC is so good it that it has its own word in haliblabi, which can be romanized as ppayee.
This was a little slice of SoCal right here in Buffalo. I think that this kind of comestible arbitrage constitutes a significant impact of the internet. Even perishable items like Julian pie, or Portillo’s Italian beef, or Amazonian roses, are now available world-wide, even when there is no significant local market to support them. It raises the question of just how much of the experience of a place can be relocated.
This was a question Jamie and I asked daily when we lived in Japan. The degree to which you want to immerse yourself in a foreign culture is increasingly up to you, especially if it is “American” culture you are seeking. At the time, we could get hold of American cultural products fairly easily. Part of that was that there was a company that would ship American groceries to you in bulk. Part was that we could order from CDNow or from the UCI Bookstore (which beat even Amazon to the online book trade as I recall). I suspect, now that cheap internet access is easily available in most of Japan, the experience is even less foreign today than it was ten years ago, if you choose not to immerse yourself in the local culture.