If you’re newer to Austin and the surrounding areas, you’ve likely been bewildered by the hubbub over bad traffic and road clogs.
If you’ve joined us from a Golden State to the west, or hail from the compact New England microstates, you’ve no doubt been stumped by the local declaration of horrible, vehicular conditions.
As confused as you are, the traffic which seems to cause so much bother likely leaves you blissed. An Austin newbie, your work-day commute has gone from somewhere around 7 hours to just 1, all in the time it took to pack up a moving van and strap the kids to the top.
But as you have no doubt noticed (cause you’re a local now), everyone in the country followed suit and hightailed it to our lovely Texas too, and in a hurry.
With the Lake Travis area at the top of the list for best places to call home, congestion is fast-building. As such, it seems time to lay down some ground rules, general tips and all out annoyances. You know, for the newbies.
1. Here, blinkers do not mean “close the gap – fast.”
When you put on your turn signal and start to gun it (as was mandatory in your last hometown), ensuring yourself unsafe yet speedy passage into the lane next to you, the Texans around you will actually slow down or move over.
It surprised me so much the first time I encountered it, that I screamed and nearly ran into a ditch. “What’s the big idea bub?!” Oh, you understood my blinker to mean that I would like to merge and quickly allowed me room. That seems shifty. I’ll be keeping my eye on you people …
2. No, shoulder driving is not a Southern thing (or a tactic for the limbless).
To be blunt, it’s a jerk thing. Yes, 620 is a hellish nightmare the likes of which devils can hardly dream up, and your kid should be in class at first bell. But, and this happens, unless you are in the middle of the Texas nowhere and a cow-trailer has tipped dead center, suck it up and wait in line with the rest of us.
3. Wave Y’all!
Sure, where you’re from drivers only wave with one finger but here in Texas — we try to keep it civil and mind our pleases and thank yous. When someone (who will be without doubt a born and bred Texan) allows you room to queue up, throw ‘em a wave of gratitude and dare we suggest it — even a smile.
In no time at all you’ll be on your way to “Southern hospitality,” pro status and the bonus? Paying it forward spreads like fire. Manners people!
4. Bumper-cars do not equal screaming.
Yes. I tapped your car. And I can see that it’s a really important one but as I get out to apologize, please don’t go banshee on me. Please?
While it’s standard and almost required in certain states to get out and defend your dent with some belligerent ranting, Texans really tend to take it for what it is — an accident.
So let’s just simmer down there, pull over and hash this out nice style. Unless you’re the one who hit the cow-trailer. Then you’ve got some explaining to do. And some clean-up.
5. Phones are for … anywhere but the car.
Now this one, and it pains me to say it, but this one’s mostly for the tried and true locals. Any one of the seemingly zillions of newcomers to the Austin area will tell you they came, very likely, from a city where hand-held anything is an absolute no-no. So the drivers we see doing 60 down the 2222 hill, cell affixed to ear via tanned hand? Those may be locals who’ve not yet learned the ropes of this newfangled notion of hands-free.
In some cases, these dear souls don’t even realize it’s coming into law all over the board and only find out the hard way, when hauled off to phone jail (a mild exaggeration, but not a bad idea). But as we’ve discussed, Texans are just about the nicest bunch around and in this area, fairly open to suggestion. So it’s likely any number of patient officers could convince them to go headset without handcuffs.
So Remember …
Now that we’ve covered some of the basics, it’s time to get out there and make driving in the Austin area less painful! And who knows, maybe you’ll spread enough road cheer to actually start enjoying that commute.
Just be safe, be smart and above all be polite. It’s the Texas way!