Monday, June 25, 2012

Drive Friendly—the Texan Way

I have a longstanding fondness for regionalisms. Even more than I enjoy the exoticness of an interstate rivalrybecause it turns out there is a difference between Texas and Oklahoma; a deep, indisputable, irreconcilable differenceI am thrilled by the hypothesis that place shapes us. Of course there must be some degree of impact, but when does it rise to the point of culture or habit or type? When do you know an Illinois driver because they will only pass you on the right, or a Los Angeles driver because they will only cut you off if you do signal to get into their lane? I had begun to think these archetypes were just stereotypes, and poorly drawn at that, when I started driving in Texas. In Texas I have learned it's not state culture that make bad drivers; bad roads make bad drivers. And we have the suicide onramps and unpainted lanes and potholes of death to prove it.

Which is to say, I think Dallas has great drivers constantly tested by challenging conditions. The conditions may in fact be so challenging it is hard to tell how great the drivers are. Which means there are no small number of snickering asides about the contradiction suggested in the frequent roadside admonition: Drive Friendlythe Texan Way.

I like the phrase. I am willing to believe that without the imperative our driving would be even worse. It's worth noting that our legislature keeps renewing Drive Friendly as an official part of the Welcome to Texas sign. We are, in fact, so friendly, so on our best company manners, that we will only remind you that George W. Bush is ours if he is actually president. In 2008 the legislature had to draft and pass a specific new bill in order to take the "Proud to be the Home of President George W. Bush" off the Welcome to Texas signs. Otherwise, I suppose, it would have remained in place until we elected a new Texas president. Even at your friendliest, you can't please everyone, so I hope George W. Bush didn't take it personally. I hope, in fact, he was at least a little delighted to realize there was a time when it hadn't occurred to Texas it would eventually have to prepare itself for someone new.

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