I moved into your fine community two weeks ago today, so I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on anything Texas. Two weeks is just enough to know where the grocery store is (though I got lost on my way there this morning), but not enough to fully understand the underpinnings of the greater culture. To be honest, most of my knowledge about Texan culture still comes from the television show Friday Night Lights. Without having any real idea, I feel FNL is an accurate representation, but maybe that’s just because I love Matt Saracen and desperately want to be Tami Taylor when I grow up. But I digress (as I usually do when FNL comes up in conversation).
Waco, there are a few things I’m having trouble adjusting to, which I will outline below. I mean, I’m not expecting anything to change, nor do I ask for any pity. But sometimes a little honesty is good at the beginning of a long relationship. And if you can’t hear about the things that make you difficult to be around, that is a personal problem that you may need to work on.
(And to be clear, I’m addressing the community as a conscious entity, not any particular human beings within it. Y’all are great…except for that murderer in point #4)
1. Your heat: This truly goes without saying. You have no business being this hot. I knew you got this hot–I saw it on Accuweather.com–but I didn’t want to believe it. I’m just grateful for your citizens who don’t pretend that this is at all acceptable weather and agree that it’s too hot for humans. They reliably inform me the temperature will eventually decrease. In November. At least we’re all in this together. And by “in this,” I mean inside, in the air conditioning. For most hours of the day.
2. Your traffic grid: For a city without eight to twelve bridges, navigating you is horribly confusing. Most of your streets are straight, but what’s with the highway that runs through the middle of the city? The roads that end and then pick up a block or two later? The access roads that run parallel to the highway? And the merging lane that requires you to get up to 65 mph in a few feet? Waco, it’s by the grace of God that I go and pray that no giant 4×4 pickup rear-ends my poor little Camry, Pearl.
3. Your incredibly friendly people: I’m looking forward to adjusting to this lovely aspect of the culture, but you take Southern hospitality and Texas-size it. My first experience with this friendliness was at a Texas rest stop. I knew I was in Texas by a) the Watch for Rattlesnakes signs, and b) the overly friendly woman talking to another woman—a stranger, mind you—from the time they both entered the bathroom, through the time spent in the stalls, and finally through the washing-of-the-hands portion of the experience. The Texan woman kept up steady stream of chatter that entire time.
4. Your safety index: Really? A 6? 94% of cities in America are safer than you? Why are your people so kind (see #3) that while in the check-out line at Target, one of them feels the need to tell me that her neighbor caught a guy two miles from their homes trying to dump the body of a woman he raped and murdered? It’s terribly hard to be a strong independent woman here if people continually look at me with anxious eyes and tell me to “have a safe day” (thank you, cashier at Dollar Tree). I’m now convinced there is a good chance I may die in this town, and the Mace I keep forgetting to buy won’t be able to save me.
5. Your cockroaches: Generally I’m not too squeamish when it comes to bugs, but I make a grand exception for cockroaches which are, by my reckoning, the worst beings on the face of this earth. They are giant, tough, fast, dirty, not afraid of humans, gross-looking, and ADDITIONALLY THEY FLY. Occasionally at you. Also, they will survive the impending nuclear holocaust, and we won’t. If they ever evolve to have the capacity for original thoughts and appreciation of beauty, they’ll probably take over the world. Normally I’m not in favor of eradicating entire species, due to the whole God-in-creation thing, but I’ll make an exception in this case. (Also, I have it on good authority that there is a Men in Black reference I could make here, but I haven’t seen it. Discuss your shock amongst yourselves).
6. Your vermin, in general: I have a friend who is very helpful in terms of looking up unnecessary and often terrifying information. He gleefully emailed me a PDF of the poisonous and dangerous animals native to Texas. It was many, many pages long with many photos of the animals that could kill or seriously injure me. I thanked him after using some very unladylike language to transmit the opposite sentiment. Really, though. What is happening down here? How did people survive with the copious amount of dangerous animals? How are people still living here? All I know is that if the people don’t kill me, the vermin probably will.
7. Your obsession with football: I’m not going to get into this because I do actually have to live here, but at the risk of sounding like a total loser, I need to say Friday Night Lights didn’t prepare me for this. I realized this fact when I found myself wearing a black school-spirited shirt in 104 degree heat attempting to spell “Baylor” with a crowd of thousands, all the while wondering what I had gotten myself into (and misspelling Baylor every single time).
8. Your numerous churches: in short, there are a lot of them. Just so many. Most of them are giant, fancy, and Baptist. How are there enough people in this town to sustain all of these churches? Do some people attend more than one church? Do the really pious hit up three or four during a Sunday morning? How does this work?
9. Your lack of coffee houses: I know it’s never cloudy here and thus the need for warm beverages is less acute, but I assume that a) people still need caffeination, and b) people still have conversations. How are you supposed to do both without a dozen options for coffeehouses? It goes without saying that one coffeeshop does not do; we must have myriad options. I don’t even know if I remember how to have a conversation without indie folk music in the background and a half-dozen people pretending not to eavesdrop.
10. Your lack of clouds: I love the sun, I really truly do. I was that crazy person in Portland who wanted to be outside whenever the sun shone, regardless of how hot it was (reminding myself once again that “hot” is incredibly relative). So I never thought I’d say this, but I already miss clouds. Not a lot of clouds, not nine months of clouds, but a few here and there. Please? It’s just so bright. ALL THE TIME.
11. Your cowboy hats: I know this is a cultural thing, so just try to help me understand. What purpose do cowboy hats serve off the ranch? Is this related to the lack of clouds? Or are those who wear cowboy hats like hipsters wearing fedoras: in that the hats serve no purpose, but individuals wear them to stand out (along with everyone else, and thus, do not stand out at all)?
12. Your lack of hipsters: Please help. I’m not a hipster, and I don’t love the over-sized grandpa sweaters over leggings, giant ’80s glasses, ironically outdated headwear, and mismatched clothing colors and styles (well, I do love the grandpa sweater; I can’t lie). But I came to associate the hipster kind with comfort and familiarity. Instead, I’m surrounded by sport shorts and college gear. What happened? Where are my darling hipsters? Are ironic beards just too hot for Texas? I suppose flannel doesn’t translate well either.
13. Your spicy mild salsa: I know this is specific and also personal, but please understand. I grew up in a German family in the Midwest that thought Tostitos salsa was the right way to do it. I’m still overcoming my spice deficiencies, which means I’m a mild to medium salsa kind of girl. Well, mild to medium Oregon salsa. In Texas, I think you all just want to pat my head like a child and give me a bowl of ketchup. To which I say, don’t patronize me, but also help me my mouth is burning off.
All in all, Waco, you’ve been a welcoming sort of place. I realize I’m living in a bit of a bubble, being on a college campus, but I’ve also been able to bond well with other expats who are just as baffled by the navigation and as terrified by the cockroaches here as I am. It’s nice to not feel alone during a transition. And Waco, I may never love you as I did my dear Newberg and quirky Portland, but I’m looking forward to finding more of your dear and quirky places, hidden though they may be.
But until I adjust, if you see a poor grey Camry going in circles down one-way streets in downtown Waco, please don’t murder the driver. She’s not from around here.