Texas attitude

I remember the first time I encountered what I’m calling a “Texas attitude.”

I was standing in line at the Sonoma County (in California) Department of Human Services applying for welfare and food stamps. The woman in front of me dropped her glasses.

And then she stared. At me. “If you were from Texas,” she said reprovingly, bending down to pick up her glasses, “you’d pick these up for me.” Astonished, I stumbled out that I was not from Texas and had no interest in being from Texas.

When it was finally my turn, the person behind the counter asked what had happened. I told her and she just replied to the effect that no one wants to be here, that clients have to adapt to the humiliation of being a “client” of the social safety net.

Fast forward to yesterday. I get an order to pick up a lady at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant. I’ve seen a few of these restaurants around here now in the Pittsburgh area. Atop one corner of the building, there is a U.S. flag. Atop another, a Texas flag.

I haven’t even gotten to the order, and she’s on the phone to me explaining almost unintelligibly that she’s at the Texas Roadhouse. So I pick her up and take her towards where she’s going.

I don’t know my way around this area much at all and she’s been silent the entire journey. “Do you even know where you’re going?” she demands.

“Just following the map.”

“I know the map didn’t tell you to go this way.”

I had been in a situation where I needed to make a left turn. Traffic here is every bit as horrible—even worse—than I had imagined when I arrived here. “It is what it is,” people say to each other. There’s no point in getting upset about it because there just isn’t anything anybody can do about it and as someone else explained to me, things the traffic engineers have tried that, get this, actually make sense, actually made it worse. It is what it is.

The only way I could make that left turn was to pull into a lane that turned out to be the wrong one. Now, here in Pittsburgh, usually when I’m in the wrong lane, my passenger will speak up. “This lane becomes a right turn only lane,” they’ll say, or something to that effect, as they tell me to change lanes.

This woman remained silent. Google Maps had shown the turn as a viable alternative route (requiring two more minutes, but this wouldn’t account for the difficulty of getting into the correct lane), so I accepted it as the price of being able to make the turn at all and followed a recalculated route. And sure enough, I got her where she was going.

Now understand, neither of these women had any cause to feel superior to me. The woman in the welfare line was there for more or less the same purposes as me. My passenger yesterday lives in, or at least was going to, a modest townhouse in Mon Valley, a place beset by pollution partly from U.S. Steel.[1] It’s not horrible like I used to see in California but also not a great neighborhood.

But they both had the same tone in their voice, a whine really, a whine expressing resentment that I wasn’t recognizing their non-existent superiority. So I have a message for the state of Texas: If you’re really bigger and better than anyone else, you need to start acting like it.

And yes, I’m remembering George W. Bush. Come to think of it, he has that whine too.

Working Class

Van Badham, “Bob Hawke spoke like us – until him the working class only saw themselves mocked on screen,” Guardian, May 16, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/17/bob-hawke-spoke-like-us-until-him-the-working-class-only-saw-themselves-mocked-on-screen

  1. [1]Jessi Quinn Alperin, “Clairton, PA, wants to be clear: Residents demand accountability from U.S. Steel,” Environmental Health News, May 13, 2019, https://www.ehn.org/clairton-coke-works-air-pollution-2636784943.html

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