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Only in Austin, Vol. 1

When I first moved to Austin in 1996, I was struck by how friendly and talkative people were. In the store, on the street, people would make eye contact with me, say hello, or make conversation. After living in San Francisco for seven years, I automatically assumed they wanted my money.

Eventually, I learned that Southerners are just nice that way. It took getting used to, but now it’s one of my favorite things about living here.

But Austinites are a little bit different than your genteel, polite Southerner. The first afternoon I spent in Austin was when my ex and I came out to investigate UT for graduate school. We made our way to his friend’s house in Hyde Park, where we had made arrangements to stay, where me met his girlfriend. She was very friendly and talkative, and described to us how eccentric Austinites were – how they would tell strangers random, often somewhat disturbing stories with no provocation. She then proceeded to tell us how her next door apartment neighbor had recently stolen her dog, because she thought the dog had eaten her chickens. In the middle of the city. In an apartment building.

Case in point.

I’m so used to talking to strangers now I barely notice it anymore, but once in a while I have one of those “Only in Austin” conversations.

I went to the post office this morning to ship a large and somewhat fragile container, and decided to wait in line to see a postal worker for advice on what services to use, rather than use the handy computerized DIY system.

The postal worker was very friendly, and I commented on how it was going to get very busy soon at the post office. He replied, “That’s what I have Valium for.” Amused, I replied, “I’m a prefer Xanex, myself.” I think at that moment he felt some kinship with me, and so he told me about how he had really painful urinary stones, and often took Vicoden for them. He also told me about his recent surgery for said stones, and that he was having them with such frequency that his doctor was recommeding further tests, as he has difficulty passing them. This was all by way of telling me how his narcotic pain perscription makes him so loopy that if, for instance, I was rude to him, he would probably say something like, “Stop being such a bitch!” His supervisor has to move him away from the front desk when he’s high on Vicodin.

I’m not complaining, I’d rather have a postal worker with low filters, than a repressed one, because we all know how badly that can go. But I think that if a survey was conducted on American cities regarding verbal filtering, Austin would probably be at the bottom of the list.

This is actually an advantage for me, because on the scale of normal people, I have a tendency to over-share, myself. But in Austin, I’m a paragon of restraint.

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