I was born in Chicago. When I was one, my father transferred with his company to a better job in Texas. But no sooner had he and my mother started to get comfortable there than an even better gig came up in Ohio. So it was off to Ohio.
About nine months into the Ohio gig, my parents realized winter in Ohio was worse than winter in Chicago. So it was back to Texas.
Not long after the return, they divorced. But both stayed in Texas.
A few years ago, my mother moved to Louisiana. And soon after, my brother moved to Seattle. And when my father passed away, there I was with my wife (not from Texas either) without much reason to stay.
So when an opportunity to transfer with my company came up, my wife and I loaded up the kids and moved to – guess where?
Reading these words as I type them, I probably should have known better. Here’s what I’ve learned.
I am not a good driver. I used to think I was, but my wife, who actually is a good driver, has convinced me otherwise. She once navigated a twisting, two-lane mountain pass so narrow we had to suck in our guts to avoid scraping oncoming cars, or oncoming mountain. This was in Ireland, where they not only drive on the wrong side of the road, they put the driver on the wrong side of the car. Me? I once caused hundreds of dollars of damage to a Cadillac just by trying to park it near a stationary brick wall.
As a not-good driver, I clearly belong in Ohio. In Ohio, people drive at reasonable speed in all conditions, even excellent ones, and especially wintry ones, which are the most common. They also use things like turn signals. They yield to pedestrians. They apply the brake when rounding a corner. They turn right from the right lane, and left from the left lane. They also seem to agree that red means stop. I agree too. I fit right in.
In Texas, people who drive like we do in Ohio had better get the fuck out of the way. We are keeping Texans from getting where they need to be, and Texans will cut in front of you at great speed and thrust an upraised middle finger out the window of their vehicle (usually a truck, usually one with truck nuts) as they pass just to make that abundantly clear. Ohio 1, Texas 0
Upraised Middle Fingers
After three years, I still haven’t seen one in Ohio. In Texas, I saw them every few minutes, especially while driving. I understand now why I saw them so often while driving. But I don’t miss it. Ohio 2, Texas 0
Passive-Aggressive Head Shaking
As a very bad driver, I still piss people off, even in Ohio. But I don’t get flipped off. What I do get is the sidelong glance followed by the head shake. I don’t like it. Give me the upraised middle finger. If you’re going to say something, say it to my face. Ohio 2, Texas 1
Texas is a huge place, and I’ve never lived in most of it. I’m from the Dallas-Fort Worth part. Sports-wise, you can’t ask for more. In DFW, you have Super Bowl wins (not lately, I know), a Stanley Cup, an NBA Championship, and two World Series appearances. That’s really all you can ask. (Unless you are asking to win the goddamn World Series when you are only one strike away. Twice. In one game. I don’t think that’s asking too much. But I digress.)
If you live in Ohio, you can ask for a lot less, and you won’t get it. The Cavaliers could not keep LeBron. The Indians peaked in 1989, when Charlie Sheen was their closer in Major League. The Browns aren’t even the real Browns, who are now the Ravens in Baltimore. The Bengals have awful uniforms that keep me from liking them. The Blue Jackets? When I got here I thought they were a minor league team, and then I realized they pretty much are.
That leaves The Reds. Good! But I don’t have cable. And so where I am, The Reds might as well not even exist. Ohio 2, Texas 2.
The Ohio State University
I need help with this. I’m fine with OSU. Go Buckeyes. Urban Meyer, win! But I do feel I exist in a giant Buckeye Room. Especially when it’s football season. Too many houses with OSU banners on front porches. Too many people decked out in OSU gear. A guy I work with pulls up every day with flags suction-cupped to the windows on both sides of his car. He clambers out in his Ohio State jacket, the book he’s reading protected by an Ohio State book cover. And he fits right in with another coworker who has her OSU tumbler in hand. I know UT fans wear their stuff too and have Longhorn Rooms, but even in Austin people do drink coffee from regular tumblers. Ohio 2, Texas 3
In either place you have to put up with about six months of shitty weather – blistering heat or freezing cold. I’ve found that freezing cold comes with snow and gloomy gray clouds. Blistering heat comes with no snow and smiling blue skies. In fact, it comes with no precipitation at all. In fact, I don’t know how water gets to Texas. But they always seem to have it when you are thirsty. Give me the blistering heat. Ohio 2, Texas 4
Lots of cattle in Texas makes for great steak. Lots of corn in Ohio means great corn. Ohio also has syrup and apple orchards where you can pick your own apples. The syrup is good on pancakes. The orchards are fun for kids. At least once. Afterwards, they are just a place where you get apples. You can get apples in Texas.
And barbecue. And great Mexican food. And Tex-Mex. And chili. And that steak I mentioned. Ohio 2, Texas 5
In Ohio, I pay the same federal taxes I paid in Texas. But I also pay taxes to the State of Ohio. I don’t understand. Texas never asked me to pay taxes to Ohio. Texas never even asked me to pay taxes to Texas. Isn’t that what lotteries are for?
What’s more, in Ohio I pay taxes to the city I work in. Texas cities don’t ask this. And in Ohio I even pay taxes to the city I live in, too. In Texas, this would cause the city I work in to totally kick the shit out of the city I live in. Or something. I don’t know. But there would be violence. This affects me, and I think it’s why I have less money. Ohio 2, Texas 6.
In Texas, they pillage you with traffic citations, probably to make up for the taxes you don’t pay. I almost missed my freeway exit once. My left front tire brushed the outermost molecule of paint at the tip of the white line I wasn’t supposed to cross. This cost me 200 dollars.
An intersection I’d been passing through since childhood changed one afternoon from a yield sign to a stop sign. An officer brought this to my attention. He charged me 200 dollars.
Not saying things like this don’t happen in Ohio, but they haven’t happened to me. The cops who have driven behind me never took issue with my expired Texas plates or my broken middle brake light. I did have a female cop stick her tongue out at me as we passed in opposite directions on a narrow street, though. No idea why. Ohio 3, Texas 6
Texas initiated a statewide campaign telling people “Don’t Mess With Texas.” In Ohio, this doesn’t seem necessary. Roadsides are mostly immaculate. I’ve never seen anyone cleaning them. This is likely because no one tosses Hefty Sacks of garbage out the open window of their truck-nutted truck (after flipping me off).
And a quick word about billboards. I despise them. And I almost never see them in Ohio. This is great. In Texas, they sprout up from the Hefty Sack leavings. Ohio 4, Texas 6
In the end, Ohio puts up a good challenge, but not enough to save the day. My parents called this one correctly, and I should have listened. Texas wins.
What about you, Dear Reader? Any thoughts? I’d love to hear them. Want to read something horribly nasty about Texas? Check this out. I haven’t read all of it, but what I did read was not at all nice to the Lone Star State. You know what’s funny? Guess where the guy who wrote it went back to?