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The 7 Minor Annoyances That Drive Houstonians Crazy

Like death from above.
Like death from above.
Photo by Adam Baker

Traffic sucks. Public transportation is a joke. Heat plus humidity is stifling. Hurricanes threaten to wipe out life as we know it. When it floods, freeways turn into rivers. The lack of zoning and historic preservation ensure our cityscape (beyond downtown) remains a massive sprawl of strip malls (and strip clubs). Our most beloved landmark, the Astrodome, is likely going to be bulldozed. Ozone levels thanks to nearby chemical refineries will probably kill us sooner than we'd like. We're practically the capital of human trafficking. Don't even get us started on potholes and the endless freeway construction.

These are real problems. This is not a story about those.

We could fill volumes with our complaints about the city we love despite its shortcomings, fixable and otherwise. We still live here. We still love it, against all odds.

But there are certain things that are frustrating as hell. They are the daily annoyances that take us to the brink and turn our normally polite demeanor into something more akin to a serial killer who forgot to take his meds. It's not famine or pestilence, but on a Monday, pre coffee, it might feel nearly as bad.

7. City birds.

Lots of cities deal with begging pigeons and doves. The droppings and stolen food while just trying to enjoy a lunch outside is certainly a pain. But, we dare any of them to deal with the myriad number of grackles that fill trees, cover power lines and swarm like a plague of locusts sent straight from hell. Whenever I hear that familiar cackle from a flock of raven-esque city pests, I feel as though I've just walked onto the set of a Hitchcock film, except this has fewer hot blondes and a lot more bird shit.

 

In Houston, winter looks like summer with fewer leaves.
In Houston, winter looks like summer with fewer leaves.
Photo by Patrick Feller

6. No seasons.

Damp and cool. Warm. Hot. Dry and cool. Repeat. If you want the brilliant colors that accompany New England autumn, you are out of luck here. We go straight from lush green trees to barren branches creaking quietly above piles of brown leaves that remain until "spring" -- we call that Texas mulch, son. Lest you think this is like California where pleasant evenings continue nearly year round, let me introduce you to August. And in winter -- or at least what passes for such a thing here -- we might have low of 38 and a high of 80 on the same day.

 

Taking their lives into their own hands.
Taking their lives into their own hands.
Photo by Michael Glasgow

5. Being a pedestrian.

Missing Persons once sung, "Nobody walks in L.A." They've never been to Houston. First, it is so hot here, we have had to build tunnels under buildings downtown to avoid heatstroke -- call us mole people. But, when you are above ground, getting from one place to another on foot is either an act of defiance or insanity. Broken sidewalks (if they exist in the first place), blistering summer sun and drivers who consider you a target rather than a pedestrian are just a few of the challenges you face, intrepid explorer. And don't even think about getting on a bike.

 

Good luck giving directions.
Good luck giving directions.

4. Streets that change names.

You think your city has confusing street names? We have one stretch of road here that goes through five name changes with zero warning. I actually wrote about 20 of the worst of them earlier this year. Yes, 20. It is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to navigate around the city -- that and the lack of any semblance of a grid. To borrow and modify a quote from Ghostbusters, the designer of Houston's streets was "either a certified genius or an authentic wacko." Considering we are a car-obsessed citizenry with the largest physical size of any city in America, I'm going with masochist.

 

Rain one minute, sun the next.
Rain one minute, sun the next.
Photo by Michael Glasgow

3. Random rain.

I remember, as a kid, being chased down a street in my neighborhood on my bike by a thunder storm. This sounds crazy, but I could see it coming. Within 30 minutes, the sun was back out and it felt like the steam room at the YMCA with fewer old naked men in towels. This phenomena is particularly acute in the summer months when warm air off the Gulf of Mexico turns into rain showers in the afternoon. But, the rain is notoriously difficult to predict given how isolated they can be. One city block might get an inch of rain in an hour while two blocks over, nary a drop. There are even parts of the city currently suffering drought conditions while others are completely normal. True story.

 

Every damn day.
Every damn day.
Photo by jjsala

2. Parking

It is either irony or a cruel joke that in a city so dominated by the automobile we don't have enough parking for most restaurants and bars. Valet parking is universally hated, but often condoned simply because walking five blocks from the nearest available parking space to your restaurant leaves us drenched either from rain or sweat -- did I mention the humidity? It's bad enough many of us have to pay for parking AT WORK, but tacking on $5 for the valet or, God help you, $20 for a parking space near a sports venue is robbery...or the price we pay for freedom. I forget which.

 

If he could, he'd kill you and everyone you care about.
If he could, he'd kill you and everyone you care about.

1. Roaches

The truth is that this had to be No. 1 on the list simply because I have quite a few female friends who would argue this is not a minor annoyance but a major problem. I'm sure you think you have nasty little roaches that are gross and require an exterminator. Try giant armored bugs that can fly. You heard me. They freaking FLY...often directly at your head. Come to think of it, that probably is more than a minor annoyance.


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