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Printed on August 20, 2019

TRANSPLANTED IN TEXAS

Texas Two-Step done highway style takes getting used to

By B.A. Belthoff / The Bulletin

Ah, the dog days of summer are here. If you’re not melting in your yard mowing the grass and weeding the gardens, you’re melting in your car as you head out for vacation or your commute to work. My favorite thing to do is to check the dashboard for the outside temperature. Nothing says summer in Texas, like 111 degrees! I hope your car has air-conditioned seats.

As I travel on Texas highways, I’m being introduced, more and more, to the Texas Two-Step – and I’m not talking about the quick, quick, slow, slow dance you do with your partner.

You’ve seen it happen, I’m sure. Picture driving in the middle lane when the driver behind you is itching to go faster – even though you are going the speed limit. (I think it’s important to mention at this point that there isn’t a road in New Jersey that I drove on where the speed limit sign read 70!) The car behind you moves right, cutting off the person in the right lane.

The driver accelerates to get snug up to the car ahead of them, only to instantly move left again, squeezing into the middle lane in front of you, when there really isn’t a car’s length of space to do it. Then, if that isn’t bad enough, the driver moves into the far left lane, still accelerating, moving right again, this time cutting off the car ahead of you.

Continuing to move right, Speedy cuts across all lanes, only to exit the highway. The cutting-over takes place whether or not there are cars in those lanes. That’s irrelevant. And not once did they use their directional. Just get out of the way because speed racer is moving over, and he’s only got 50 feet to get off the highway. He might as well turn the car perpendicular to drive toward the exit.

And that is what I fondly refer to as the Texas Two-Step. The first time I witnessed this, I was totally dismayed.

“What just happened?”

It doesn’t even make any sense. If you’re planning on exiting the highway, why go through all of that zigging and zagging? It’s not like you didn’t know you were coming up on your exit. The signs on the highway give you plenty of time to put yourself in a position to exit the highway safely – like two miles worth of time. And each half mile or so, you get another reminder.

Maybe the signage needs to be more dramatic so that these folks who are in a perpetual state of hurry pay more attention. They could read: Planning on taking the next exit; it’s now one-and-a-half miles away. Get in the slow lane. The next one might say: Hey Speedy, you in the right lane yet? The last reminder should read something like this: Put the phone down and stop texting because now there’s only a quarter mile between here and your exit!

I’ve witnessed the Texas Two-Step almost every time I’m driving on the highway so that I now just shake my head and laugh, even though it isn’t funny, because any driver doing this puts a lot of people in danger.

By now you’re probably thinking that New Jersey drivers can’t be any better. You’re right. They have their share of idiosyncrasies while driving.

To be fair, though, the signage in the Garden State has nothing on Texas. In the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, you need to know where you are going before you get in the car – even if you’re headed to a new destination. Why? Because you can’t rely on there being enough signs or even a sign to alert you to the street or exit you may need to take. It changes driving from an activity that takes you from place to place to an adventure

that leaves you wondering if you will actually get to where you are going.

Another issue up north, and probably other places, too, is when the street you are traveling on has the same name as the cross street! Being aware of the direction you are traveling and where you are located is critical. It’s similar to when you enter the 610 loop. I find myself panicking as I’m not as well-versed in the positioning of streets in and around the city. It seems when I anticipate the signs will indicate 610 north or south, the signage will instead say east or west.

That’s when the panic sets in. I thought I was traveling east. Now which way do I go? And then I remember, what’s the worst thing that could happen? I’ll just drive around in a big circle and use lots of gas while supporting the oil and gas industry.

You’ll know you’re traveling behind me because I’ll be the one using directionals, or as we say in New Jersey, blinkers. I don’t understand why drivers don’t use them. They make a fun sound, and they light up, letting drivers around you know you intend to turn or change lanes.

Remember when you were a kid, and you’d sit in the driver’s seat of your parents’ car, pretending to drive it when it was parked in the driveway? I would push every button and turn every knob. I’d even make the blinker sound when I’d hit the directional wand. My dad would get in the car with the radio blasting, the windshield wipers pumping and the turn indicator blinking.

“Were you playing in the car,” He’d ask?

Of course, I always blamed it on my brother.

I’m not sure what can be done about the Texas Two-Step. Coming home from the store recently, I witnessed the same maneuver on a well-traveled county road. What is significant is that it was performed by a county constable. Even though he was quick, quick, he wound up having to wait, wait to turn at the light – just like me.

(New-ish Texas resident B.A. Belthoff welcomes your comments. You can reach her at babelthoff@gmail.com.)