Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Country roads

One of the things that made me so quickly want to call Houston 'home' when I first arrived many years ago was the friendliness of the people.

The temperature is, for much of the year, on the warm side. Some people might use the adjective 'hot'. In addition, the prevailing winds come from the south, and guess what's there? The Gulf of Mexico. So, combined with the heat, we have a lot of humidity*. If the thermometer reads 100 degrees or above, Fahrenheit, even I feel it! So, the weather is not usually an attraction.

Scenery? Unless you like mucky goo, scrub flora (for the most part), brown water**, and flatness (the closest thing we have to a 'hill' is a fire ant mound), truly there isn't a whole lot in the way of natural features to entice a stranger.

There is great beauty here, but much of it is man-made. Houston's downtown skyline is spectacular! Even though I've lived here for a long time, I never tire of viewing it, particularly at night. It's not quite so lit up now as it used to be. Conserving energy and all that, you know. If you happen to be coming in from the northeast in daylight, along Highway 59, you have the added treat of a juxtaposition of the old in the foreground with the new in the background. Quite special.

But I digress. I'll do some posts further down the road with more specifics on Houston and, in general, on Texas. Let's get back to the topic at hand, which is (I'll have to go back to the top to find out what it is) ... I found it! Aha!!

OK. The thing that almost took my breath away when I first arrived was the friendliness of the people, and it seemed to be genuine. It was extremely unusual*** to go into a store -- ANY store -- and not have another shopper (not one of the salespeople or clerks, who are paid to do so!) smile and say hello.

What inspired THIS post was another blogger's remarks on his site Saturday, 6/21, which was my birthday, now that I think about it. Gee, that seems like a long time ago! I'm not going to quote what he said word for word, but the gist is ... ...

He's walking along a country road. A car approaches him and the driver gives a one-fingered (index) wave. He's impressed by the gesture of friendliness, and memories come flooding back.

Well, when I read this post, my mind immediately went back to years ago, when I was first traveling along a country road going north from Schulenberg (TX), as I recall, towards Austin.

In Texas, that part of the world is known as the 'hill country'. The roads wind round about and twist and turn. There is very little room for passing, so the vast majority of the time there is a double yellow stripe in the center of the two-lane road.

One might think that this would create just a tremendous line of traffic behind the slow-moving vehicle in front. No. Never happened. At least, not that I saw!

How is this circumvented? Quite simply, actually. The slow-mover merely pulls over (almost into the ditch) to allow the faster vehicle/s to pass. (The first time I saw this happen, I thought the other driver was having car trouble!)

Then, of course, the faster drivers are obliged to give not just a one-finger wave, but a full hand-waving salute along with a smile and a slight horn tap of appreciation. This habitual practice of common courtesy and decency is still being being adhered to today, to the best of my knowledge, in Texas' hill country.

*Humidity. I grew up in the far north where, after a rain, I could actually smell and feel the fresh air. In Houston, after it rains, it's like you're in a sauna bath! (You might have a split second or two to smell the fresh air, but then the humidity returns in an almost overwhelming fashion.)

**Brown water. I think that was my second biggest surprise. Where I grew up, there WAS no such thing as 'brown' water, unless there were horrendous flooding conditions, of course! Then, as I grew to understand why it was so -- water has to be able to cleanse itself by movement and rocks -- I gradually began to accept it.

***Not quite so unusual today but still, the people you happen to meet or just pass by -- if you are at ALL attuned to what's going on around you -- I find are quite receptive to a sincere smile, greeting, or thoughtful remark.


Tammy said...

Having spent almost 2 weeks in California, I have to say they were some of the most unfriendly people I've ever had the chance to watch. And I had quite a few chances to just sit and people-watch. They are pretty quick to give the one finger salute to anyone that gets/walks/drives in their way or anyone that just annoys them in general. The salute is usually nonchalantly received and reciprocated in most circumstances. Glad to be back in Idaho in my home. lol

Goldenrod said...

I've been in California only a couple of times, and on neither occasion did I experience what you did! That's unfortunate. I'm glad you're back home safe and sound.