One year ago today, we climbed out of our car after 2 1/2 days on the road (and nearly 1500 miles) with our two cats, and set foot in Texas. I can’t believe one year has passed! (Where DOES the time go?) But I thought I’d take a few moments to reflect on my first year becoming a Texan.
People are So Friendly
It may be a stereotype but it is SO TRUE! Of all the places we’ve lived (and we’ve moved a lot), Texas has to have been one of the most welcoming places. Now, that’s not to say that everyone is nice and polite, but overwhelmingly people here have manners, smile, and make you feel right at home. I remember being noticeably shocked to walk into the Subway sandwich shop to be greeted by the teenagers with “Hello, Ma’am. How can I help you?” (Besides the fact that being called “ma’am” made me feel old, these kids were taught manners!)
And the friends we’ve made…you know who you are…you have helped make Houston home faster than any other place. If we can’t live close to family, you guys are definitely the next best thing!
Is all this friendliness due to the fact that 90% of the people I’ve met are not FROM Texas? So we’re all transplants and we bond together to survive the 4th largest city in the country? (By the way, I hear we’re positioned to overtake Chicago for #3!!) Whatever the case, thank you Houstonians for welcoming us into the fold.
Driving in Texas is Good and Bad
Okay, I’ve lived in a lot of crowded places where traffic is a nightmare (hello, San Francisco Bay Area, I’m talking to you!). Like any major metropolitan area, Houston is sprawl-y. The suburbs lure people further and further away from city center with the promise of huge and affordable homes. This causes classic freeway traffic nightmares. I have to say, we were lucky to be able to choose to live 2.5 miles away from my husband’s office (and I luckily work from home) so it’s rare that we have to get on the freeway. But when we do, yeesh! It can be some of the worst traffic to get through.
BUT, I LOVE how this state handles on/off ramps and feeder roads. Feeder roads (for those of you who don’t have them) are one-way roads on either side of the freeway (some places might call these frontage roads). But one thing you’ll notice is that shops come right up to the feeder road. Let me try to explain – for those of you on the west coast, you know how you’re driving up or down the I-5 freeway, and when you get off the freeway, you usually have to drive a block or two to get to an actual store? Here? It’s like the stores cozy right up to the freeway, and when you get off the freeway, the feeder road is just lined with everything you need. You have to see this to get the full gist of it. I remember the hubby pointing out after his first trip here that everything is – BAM – right on the freeway. (For those of you from Texas, you probably don’t get what the big deal is about this either.)
Okay – so the on/off ramps. First of all, because these feeder roads run along the whole side of the freeway, you get on/off in between major streets. This means that if you’re taking the exit for “Texas Street”, you merge on to the feeder road and usually have to go a couple hundred feet before you actually get to “Texas Street”. This makes merging so much smoother (in my opinion).
And then…there are the U-Turns! LOVE THE U-TURNS! These are lovely shortcuts to get back to the other side of the freeway. Okay – so you’ve gotten off the freeway onto a feeder road. Since it’s ahead of the street, you get to a light at “Texas Street” (using my same example). Now, remember I said the feeder roads are one-way? That means, if you want to get to the OTHER side of the freeway, you would normally turn left at the light at “Texas Street” and then have to turn left at another light to get on the feeder road on the other side. NOT IN TEXAS! No, sir! Ahead of the light, there is a u-turn that goes under the freeway and takes you back to the other side – avoiding two lights! Okay – you might not think this is a huge deal….but it’s a huge deal! Especially when you miss the store you’re trying to get to, and you have to go to the other side to head back and loop around and try again. Trust me, saving the headache of all those lights is a godsend!
Getting a Drivers License
I guess I should take a minute here to share one not-so-pleasant part of becoming a Texan (at least for us) and that was getting our drivers’ licenses. First of all, every other state I’ve lived in, you can register your car and get your license at the same place. Not in Texas. You have to register your car first, which you do at the county tax office. Then, once your car is registered, you go to the Department of Public Safety to get your Drivers License. I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version of how that went for us.
County tax office was the typical long line, multiple windows, overly crowded and hot experience that you come to expect from anything related to your car. No surprises there, just took forever.
Getting our drivers licenses was E-X-C-R-U-T-I-A-T-I-N-G! I do have to acknowledge that part of it was my fault – but only a small part of it. So…we set out to get our licenses as soon as is humanly possible so that it’s out of the way and we don’t have to take extra time off work to do it. That was the goal. Like most cities, there are multiple offices where you can go to do this. So we located a few near us and set out.
Okay, let me remind you that this is early August in Texas. And we moved from San Diego. So the heat and humidity were stifling. I actually did my hair and put on make up that day in hopes of avoiding a terrible picture. But I felt like I was melting every second that I was outside the comforts of the air conditioned car.
We head to the first DPS location – and the line is OUT THE DOOR!! Literally, door to the building propped open, people lined up outside in the sun….in August….in Texas. No thank you!
So we drive to a second location…and the line is OUT THE DOOR!
And we head to a third location…and the line is OUT THE DOOR!
Sorry, but three strikes and you’re out, because I am not standing in the sun in August in Texas…and who even knows how long the line is on the inside of the building.
So…we wait a few days and try again. We head back to the DPS and the line is not out the door (yay!) but we soon realize the line is TO the door. Yep, we barely fit inside and are able to close the door behind us. But then we are in the snake-y line that gets us to the point where we can get a number. You have lots of time to people watch when you’re in these long lines. And I felt so bad for the woman who was giving out the numbers because she also sort of pre-screened people to make sure they had everything they needed and some people just didn’t get it. One dad argued with her for what seemed like hours, because his son was there to get his learner’s permit, but he didn’t send in the paperwork in advance or something. Seriously, she explained the situation to him probably 10 times that he would not be able to do anything today until some papers were filed (by the way, it sounds way more complicated to get your learner’s permit in Texas than California). And of course the people in line were agitated that he wouldn’t just get out of the way (us included). FINALLY, he moved on and we crept up one more space in line.
I think it took 30 minutes for us to get to the front of the line, and we were excited to be getting a number. Then…this is where it’s sort of, kind of, a little bit my fault…we were told that we don’t have all the required documents to get a license. What?? Yes, even though I’ve had a license in 3 other states at various times, only in Texas do they require your existing license, social security card AND passport. Are you kidding me? Lesson to learn here: Actually read the website where it tells you what documents to bring.
By this time, hubby was ready to keep our California licenses forever! But I had done my hair and make up TWICE in the gross August heat for this, and I was going to get my decent license picture!! We had gone towards the end of the day and they were closing in an hour. We jammed back home to get our passports (thankfully they hadn’t expired yet!) and right back. We had to wait another 20-ish minutes in the line to get a number, but hallelujah we got one!
When your number gets called, by the way, it’s to go stand in yet another line to wait for one of the windows to open up. Ugh!
But now we’re officially Texans
Texas might make you work a little bit to become a Texan, but it’s been worth it. Texans are a proud people, and we’re learning that there is a lot to be proud of. If you can get over the summer heat (which I’m trying really hard to do without complaining too much, but some days it’s just unbearable), it’s a great place full of wonderful people that make it easy to feel at home.