When moving from one place to another, there is always that moment where you have to get used to a city’s quirks. Even if you’re moving within a country. And frankly, if we’re talking about the US, we’re talking about a big variety in culture. There are probably small towns that have its own culture that no one’s discovered yet.
I think the most radical change in the US could be moving from North to South—or South to North. I’m not sure why, but I feel like those should be capitalized (just Googled the grammar rules; we’re good to go, guys. I know you were worried.). I met someone from Tennessee while studying abroad and she said that people in the South still refer to the Mason-Dixon line as a reference. So coming down from Chicago to Austin, which is still a part of Texas though it is a liberal capitol, I was a bit apprehensive. But I love where I live right now and I’ve
been forced learned to love its quirks.
One of my favorite Texan quirks is their highway addresses.
(I know I recently wrote about horrible Austin driving habits, but here’s yet another one.) For such a large place, Texas sure doesn’t make it easy to find things; directions are taken to mean “scavenger hunt.” Although Texas pretends they operate on addresses, you’ll realize quickly, and yet not quick enough, that it’s not. It goes one of two ways:
The never-ending U-turns
Almost any hotel, store, or restaurant found lining or even remotely near a highway will have some ridiculous address. I’ll look for one right now—Target: 5621 North I-35, Austin, TX 78723. When you put this address into your smartphone to route it via trusty GPS, at some point during your drive on the highway, the smartphone will say “You have arrived at your destination”.
You see this coming, but you don’t believe it. .1 mi, 500 feet, 300 feet… You believe so hard that, while driving on the 70mph highway, you’ll suddenly find yourself careening into the Target, thinking how did I miss it? This, of course, never happens. Instead, you see the logo peeping up from below the ramp, realizing too late that you should’ve taken the previous exit and now who knows how long it was going to be before the next one where you can make the Texas built-in U-turn.
Finally, after nearly 2 miles (the next exit), you exit and drive an additional half a mile to a stoplight where you can make a U-turn. I would make illegal U-turns, but the only thing stopping me are the giant gap between the two directions the highway runs makes it absolutely impossible.
Once making the U-turn, it’s yet another 2.5 miles back to where you were supposed to exit in the first place. A second option would be to stay on the road running parallel to the highway that no one uses, but you will be lost either way. “I swear I just saw the Target over here,” you’ll mutter to yourself while realizing the left lane you were in betrayed you and turned into a left-turn only lane. And again, you’ve lost sight of it.
The minute you utter, “That’s it! I’m giving up!” is usually when you happen upon it accidentally trying to find the ramp to the highway.
The “almost there”
A more welcoming alternative to this is to route you to the nearest road and at about 100 yards from what you’re looking for, the GPS will announce that you have arrived at your destination.
Too used to this, I’ll start a process 500 feet from the destination where I’ll take my eyes off the immediate road and look at my surroundings, hoping that I’ll be able to spot any sign of what I’m looking for nearby. Chains are usually the most successful ones because they have the financial backing to brightly advertise their locations. Small, independent things are usually the hardest to find because they’ll be in a corner, tucked away in an unassuming plaza.
This is by far the easier route, however, so I’m not complaining about the “almost there” technique. Once you get used to it, you’ll start to understand how to accurately search for something. I just wonder how Southerners do it when they get up North, but we’ve made it easy for you guys. Clearly labeled streets on a grid system. Shit can’t get easier than that.
It’s hard at first, I know, you poor thing. I’ve been there far too many times. You will be confused and frustrated. You will also make an unprecedented amount of U-turns for having been directed by your GPS to that exact location. You will shout at the Texan higher-ups that thought this was a good idea, especially if lost and caught in traffic. Oof.
Thankfully, houses and apartments are still highway-address free, so I still have a little motivation to be social.
Are there any silly quirks you’ve found while traveling?