Life in Austin (2)

Life in Austin (1)” introduces some of the themes on which I will here elaborate. But there is more to say about Austin than greenness for its own sake, growth to stoke the egos of elected officials and other smug Austinites, the horrendous traffic that ensues, and the diversion of precious road space to Austin’s powerful (though minuscule) cadre of bicyclists.

The last-mentioned are not content to stay in their lanes. When they are not riding abreast and riding the white line to force drivers to swerve around them, they are waiting for lights to change (when they do wait, that is) by parking themselves square in the middle of traffic. The purpose of this maneuver, of course, is an ill-advised attempt to irritate drivers. Ill-advised because many drivers, who have a distinct weight advantage, make it a point to harass cyclists. I would not be surprised to learn that the occasional cyclist who is picked off by a never-discovered driver was a casualty of a poorly calculated near miss.

Austin’s self-designated status as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” to which I adverted in part one, is a matter of misguided opinion. How does one determine the “most musical” city and, more fundamentally, what counts as music? My idea of music isn’t a lot of twenty-somethings making a lot of noise that is heard mostly by other twenty-somethings. (Nor is it the corny trash for thirty-to-ninety somethings that seems to be Nashville’s staple.) Give me a first-rate symphony orchestra that plays (mostly) music composed before 1900 and a bevy of chamber ensembles that do the same. By that (correct) standard, there are dozens of cities that could claim the title of “Live Music Capital of the World,” but Austin wouldn’t be among them.

You may also have heard that Austin is a “beautiful” city. And that would be true, if only its parks and tonier residential areas are considered. But most of Austin — that part of it which hasn’t been paved over in a vain attempt to move traffic — is flat, brown much of the year (because of a continuing drought), and occupied by ugly houses and commercial buildings. Austin’s downtown area, which once was dominated by the beautiful Capitol of Texas, is now dominated by the random and graceless spires of high-rise buildings, to which the more affluent denizens of Austin have fled so that they have a place to park when they are conducting business in downtown Austin.

Getting back to Austin’s drivers, I can only say that they are, on the whole, the worst that I have encountered in my 56 years behind the wheel. Without further ado, I give you my essay on “Driving in Austin”:

It begins with (1) driving in the middle of unstriped, residential streets, even as other vehicles approache. This practice might be excused as a precautionary because (2) Austinites often exit parked cars by opening doors and stepping out, heedless of traffic. But middle-of-the-road driving occurs spontaneously and is of a piece with the following self-centered habits.

(3) Waiting until the last split-second to turn onto a street.  This practice — which prevails along Florida’s Gulf Coast because of the age of the population there — is indulged in by drivers of all ages in Austin. It is closely related to (4) the habit of ignoring stop signs, not just by failing to stop at them but also (and quite typically) failing to look before not stopping. Ditto — and more dangerously — (5) red lights.

Not quite as dangerous, but mightily annoying, is the Austin habit of (6) turning abruptly without giving a signal. And when the turn is to the right, it often is accompanied by (7) a loop to the left, which thoroughly confuses the driver of the following vehicle and can cause him to veer into danger.

Loopy driving reaches new heights when an Austiner (8) changes lanes or crosses lanes of traffic without looking. A signal, rarely given, occurs after the driver has made his or her move, and it means “I’m changing/crossing lanes because it’s my God-given right to do so whenever I feel like it, and it’s up to other drivers to avoid hitting my vehicle.”

The imperial prerogative — I drive where I please — also manifests itself in the form of (9) crossing the center line while taking a curve. That this is done by drivers of all types of vehicle, from itsy-bitsy cars to hulking SUVs, indicates that the problem is sloppy driving habits, not unresponsive steering mechanisms. Other, closely related practices are (10) taking a corner by cutting across the oncoming lane of traffic and (11) zipping through a parking lot as if no child, other pedestrian, or vehicle might suddenly appear in the driving lane.

At the other end of the spectrum, but just as indicative of thoughtlessness is the practice of (12) yielding the right of way when it’s yours. This perverse courtesy only confuses the driver who doesn’t have the right of way and causes traffic to back up (needlessly) behind the yielding driver.

Then there is (13) the seeming inability of most Austiners to park approximately in the middle of a head-in parking space and parallel to the stripes that delineate it.  The ranks of the parking-challenged seem to be filled with yuppie women in small BMWs, Infinitis, and Lexi; older women in almost any kind of vehicle; and (worst of all) drivers of SUVs –(14) of which “green” Austin has far more than its share on its antiquated street grid. It should go without saying that most of Austin’s SUV drivers are (15) obnoxious, tail-gating jerks when they are on the road.

Contributing to the preceding practices — and compounding the dangers of the many dangerous ones — is (16) the evidently inalienable right of an Austinite to talk on a cell phone while driving, everywhere and (it seems) always. Yuppie women in SUVs are the worst offenders, and the most dangerous of the lot because of their self-absorption and the number of tons they wield with consummate lack of skill. Austin, it should also go without saying, has more than its share of yuppie women.

None of the above is unique to Austin. But inconsiderate and dangerous driving habits seem much more prevalent in Austin than in other places where I have driven — even including the D.C. area, where I spent 37 years.

My theory is that the prevalence of bad-driving behavior in Austin — where liberalism dominates — reflects the essentially anti-social character of liberalism Despite the lip-service that liberals give to such things as compassion, community, and society, they worship the state and use its power to do their will — without thought or care for the lives and livelihoods thus twisted and damaged.

It should be unnecessary to add that the 16 egregious practices described above are especially prevalent among Austin’s self-important, SUV-driving, guilt-trip-Democrat-voting yuppies.

What is the cost of living in Austin’s smug, raucous, clogged, irritating, and (mostly) ugly environs? It isn’t cheap, because Austin levies the highest sales-tax rate permitted by Texas (8.25%), and routinely raises property assessments by 10% a year (the maximum allowable by law), while also raising property-tax rates (just enough to evade approval at the ballot box).

So, if you’re thinking of living in (or near) Austin, consider yourself warned.

As for me, I’m out of here as soon as my 90-something in-laws see fit to quit their earthly abode.