For the first time in my life, I’m in Texas. Growing up in Connecticut, my family never really had the means to take many family vacations, at least not far within the US (and certainly not abroad); we would usually just drive to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania and stay in a rustic cabin by the lake for a week. Occasionally I would make trips to Missouri or Ohio to visit my grandparents. But, other than that, I saw very little of the US. Then I left the US when I was 18 and proceeded to travel to some 65+ countries across 5 continents over the next 15 years.
Now my very well traveled self has come back to the one region that I’ve barely seen at all: the United States. I’ve certainly visited far more countries in either Africa or Europe than states in the US. As I start to explore my own country, I see that each state is almost like its own country. OK, maybe not Connecticut and Rhode Island. But TEXAS is certainly a world onto its own. Texas deserves its own blog.
One thing I noticed immediately about the state “where everything is bigger” is the ultimate manifestation of American car-culture. More so than anywhere else I’ve been, the land is big, the roads are wide, everything is far apart, and you are hopeless without a car.
I learned a new vocabulary word shortly after getting off the plane. A middle aged couple were talking about making plans to meet some younger relative of theirs. The woman said in a hushed and concerned tone, “But she is carless.” She might as well have said that the girl had polio or had dropped out of school, because the man’s response was “Oh no, that is a problem.”
It’s not even a case of it being pedestrian unfriendly; it’s something much more fundamental than that. It’s as though without a car, you aren’t a person. The cars ARE the people. When you drive around (because you sure as hell aren’t walking around), you don’t see any people; you see cars.
I became so used to it that when I did spot a lone man walking along the side of the road in a suburban area, I was surprised and confused and asked my friend, “What is that man doing? Is he homeless?” And she responded, “No, he’s just carless.”