Just because I’m a Texan does not mean I like everything about this state and I despise Austin with a passion. I know that town’s our state capitol, but I get the hives every time I think about driving down there. Austin makes me scream. I don’t mean that I want to scream. Nope. I actually reach a point where I’m screaming my lungs out just driving through the city, and I can weave a verbal tapestry of obscenities that would make Cactus Jack Garner blush were he still alive.
It’s not the politicians, the hippies or the whole “weirder-than-thou” attitude that borders on snobbery that turns me off. No. My biggest beef with Austin is driving in it. Were the Fathers of Texas inhaling methane gas rolling in off the old stockyards when the Austin city planning began way back in the 1840s?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you need a crystal ball and a Ouija board just to find where you are going in Austin. Don’t bother using online driving directions or a global positioning system navigation computer when driving in Austin. The city streets and thoroughfares render both useless. I actually thought I heard a friend’s TomTom cuss while trying to locate our destination.
I really like all the fun stuff Austin has to offer. But I can’t freakin’ get there because I can’t find anything. It takes me two hours to reach a destination when it should have only taken one. Add to the chaos, this: I am directionally challenged anyway. That’s right; I can’t drive my way out of a paper bag when it comes to finding my way. Dump me in the middle of Austin and I might never return (though you might check the Congress Street Bridge; I’ll probably be hanging upside down with the Mexican free-tailed bats).
My husband likes to joke that I am actually Native American, from the Fockawee tribe, because I'm always asking, "Where the fockawee?"
I have to hold up my hands with my index fingers pointing up and my thumbs pointing inward to tell left from right. The backward “L” is right. I’m a reasonably intelligent person, but I get a little fuddled trying to find my way sometimes. Usually, I can correct the situation with a little help from my fellow Texans.
But not in Austin.
Several years ago, I had to travel to Austin to the Texas Vital Statistics Office to get a copy of my birth certificate. No problem, right?
The driving directions from my favorite online site said I had to take Interstate Highway 35 South to Exit 238A/Highway 290/FM 2222 and turn right on Koenig. What the directions failed to mention is that Koenig IS FM 2222. And Koenig is NOT on the first street sign after that exit (they are further down, but by then street signs are almost useless). My end destination was on 49th Street; West 49th Street to be exact.
Of course, I got lost. So I stopped at one of the bazillion coffee houses in Austin and asked the barista where West 49th was.
“I don’t know. That sounds like somewhere near the capitol building. None of our streets really make sense here,” he said.
No kidding, kid. No kidding.
Using common sense and tarot cards, I divined that if I followed 51st Street, I might come across one of the streets also mentioned in my now-worthless driving directions…and I was right. In the distance, Lamar Street beckoned like the Hierophant in the tarot card deck and eventually I was able to find North Loop, then Grover, then West 49th Street.
I walked in to the Vital Statistics Office and said to the clerk triumphantly, “AHA! I have found you! You cannot hide!”
“Curses. Foiled again,” she said, grinning. She said most people have trouble finding the office and that I was not alone in my frustration. So chalk one up to Austinites for having a sense of humor about the weirdness of their city streets.
I wish I could say I had good driving experiences in Austin, but I can’t. I firmly believe that once I download driving directions for anywhere in Austin from the Internet, thousands of hemp roast/latte-swilling hippies emerge from their communes in droves like lemmings to take down street signs and throw up random traffic cones just to mess with me. I’ll bet if I looked closely at the soil around a poorly placed one way traffic sign, I would find the tell-tale sign of recycled tire sandals running haphazardly toward Sixth Street.
Hey! I should try that! I might just find Sixth Street after all!