We undertook some fieldwork on the highways and in the towns of south-western Ontario and the American midwest. Some might describe it as a road trip from Toronto to Normal, Illinois to visit friends over March Break but that would seriously underestimate the deep analysis that the voyage entailed. In brief:

Quantitative Findings

From the vantage point of the back seat of an old but reliable car, one can spot many more water towers than flags:

The final tally was flags: 37, water towers: 58. These data are unlikely to hold up to scrutiny by future researchers due to the fact that I stopped pointing out flags and water towers when I started getting “you write it!” as a response.


Number of States spotted on license plates: 14: Alaska (bonus points!), Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin.

Number of Provinces spotted: 2. Alberta and Ontario (shout out!)

No one played this game with me so I got bored and stopped keeping track. K was reading and the kids were watching a movie and they can’t really see or read the license plates as I speed past in what Malli hopefully describes as the fastest car on earth.

Qualitative Findings

By the kids:

Observation 1: The USA is really big. It’s not bigger than Canada but it has way more people in it. And there are parts of Canada and parts of the USA that we haven’t even seen yet !!!

Observation 2: The USA has four names: USA, United States, the States, the US.

By me:

Observation 1: A private health care system means that fees that patients pay go in part to paying the rent on enormous billboards on the interstate. Sick people and the people who love them are consumers and their health care dollars are sought after. We saw billboards advertising cancer care clinics, hospitals and hospices. My doctor says it’s cancer… now what? … Think any hospital is good enough for your child? Think again. … Don’t die with your teeth in a glass! This last one was for teeth implants. But the others seemed particularly cold. I had visions of people facing tremendous adversity – a cancer diagnosis, a very sick child – being cast adrift to search the phone book or drive the interstate looking for billboards to choose their next level of care.

The ads are not only for health care providers; they’re for diseases too. Joint pain? Might be lupus! Ugly toenails? Could be cancer! Savvy health care providers can’t sit back and wait for patients to just show up on their doorsteps, diagnoses in hand. It makes much better business sense to go out and make some customers. That’s what brings home the bacon so families can afford their health care premiums, I suppose.

Observation 2: Passing Michigan-bound truck after truck after truck filled to the brim with Toronto’s garbage is embarrassing. Sorry, Michigan.

3 responses to “fieldwork

  1. …just so good. Loving the ‘you write it’ – still laughing! But such good grim observations – your own especially –

  2. Keeping kids occupied on a road-trip is always a bit of fun! Chuckled my way through this. 🙂

  3. The flag- and water-tower-counting activities were in addition to near-constant movies. We caved and bought a dual-screen dvd player that straps on the back of the front seat headrests. It was brilliant. I wouldn’t want to cover 2000 km any other way!

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