10 November 2005

There's nothing quite like the traffic on South Lamar. It defies explanation. It defies common sense. It does not defy gravity (only Elphaba can pull that off). In this way, it is sort of like the majority of the Texas Legislature (two months every two years. Brilliance at work.), or the central Texas weather. Not just any place can pull of ninety degrees in November.

In the ten minutes it takes to get downtown on my bike from my apartment south of Zilker Park, I can usually witness at least three near misses, six episodes of brake-slamming for no apparent reason, four ridiculous lane changes, two prize fights between someone's liberal-stickered Volvo and someone else's Dubya-stickered Suburban, and twenty-seven thousand, three hundred forty-six incidents of someone running across the street without looking to see if there's traffic.

Perhaps I exaggerate. But not by much.

The bumper stickers here are brilliant. You can almost tell a person's entire life by the make and model of their car and the stickers which adorn it. Take, for example, the above-mentioned Suburban, in any color, 1998 or later. It has a W '04 sticker on it. It might have a "These Colors Don't Run" or "Power of Pride" sticker on it. There is probably also at least one sticker declaring that a daughter or son is on the dance team/cheerleading squad/baseball team/football team/et cetera at X High School. This Suburban lives in Rollingwood or in one of the new housing developments around the outskirts of the city. The Suburban does not know anyone who is gay (or is in denial, or simply doesn't notice. Everyone who lives near Austin knows someone who is gay.) and voted for Proposition 2. The Suburban probably pays for the ninety gallon trash cart for curbside garbage pickup.

The Volvo. The Volvo has stickers from Wheatsville Co-op, at least three derogatory Bush stickers, a "Keep Austin Weird" sticker, probably a sticker from some Waterloo business or BookPeople, and more than likely at least one gay rights sticker. The Volvo lives inside the 35/71/MoPac/183 boundary and usually bikes, but might have been making a run to the grocery store or something. The Volvo has a thirty gallon garbage cart (unless it has roommates, then it has the sixty) and four recycling bins from the fire station. The Volvo can be found biking, rowing on Town Lake, or walking when it is not negotiating South Lamar. The Volvo might be straight, but thinks that Proposition 2 is idiotic and voted against it. The Volvo is way freaked out when it occasionally makes the trip north of town (for whatever reason), comes over that rise on 35 and sees the valley which is absolutely covered with houses that all look exactly the same and are one and a half feet apart. This is what is known as Pflugerville (not the historic part, which has its own charm).

There are many vehicles between these two extremes, and off on their own tangents. But the basic spectrum of Austin existence can be easily found in South Lamar traffic, any time between seven in the morning and eleven at night.


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