No one wants to be stuck anywhere. Sitting in a waiting room at the doctor's office. Standing in line to buy tickets for a movie. Waiting behind an elderly woman at the grocery story who insists on paying with a check. These daily frustrations can increase stress and generally piss people off. Houston shares these same tension builders with other cities, but we have a few things that are fairly unique to us.
10. The downtown light rail line during the rodeo (or on Sundays during football season).
The light rail, despite all the debate and votes and lawsuits, has been wildly successful. And as it expands, there is no reason to think it won't continue to be an asset to a traffic-clogged city like Houston. But there are certain times the downtown section of the rail should be avoided like grim death, in particular during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and football season, unless of course you want to learn what a sardine feels like when packed into a tin can.
9. Washington Avenue after 10 p.m. on Friday or Saturday.
Not only are the denizens of this somewhat fading barhop scene spending much of their weekend nights drinking, but with very few transportation options to get to and from Washington Avenue (the jitney might get you up and down the street, but it won't take you home), many of these folks end up on the road making crossing this busy street hazardous. Avoid at all costs or challenge at your own risk.
8. Behind a Critical Mass bike ride.
The popular cycling organization that holds nighttime rides is fascinating, but also brutally slow. It's akin to being stuck behind a parade of octogenarians. To make matters worse, there can literally be several hundred riders stretching out over a mile or two, making the wait longer and more frustrating. If you come across one of these rides, do yourself a favor and turn around to find another route home.
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7. The Houston Zoo on a summer afternoon.
Just about everybody loves the zoo, and the Houston Zoo is a wonderful place for kids of all ages. But unless you're made of a reflective surface or excrete sunscreen instead of sweat, it might be the worst place to go on a hot summer afternoon, particularly on a weekend or holiday when every human with a child happens to be there. While much of the zoo has a healthy amount of shade, the parts that don't can feel like an oven. Sure, kids want to go, but if you're planning a child-free visit, save yourself and go on a nice fall day...preferably a Wednesday.
6. Without an umbrella at any time.
The old saying "If you don't like the weather in Texas, wait" goes double for Houston, where it can be sunny and hot in one part of town while another gets a downpour. Sometimes, both occur simultaneously, which means keeping an umbrella handy is not just helpful but necessary. And when it isn't raining, block out the sun with it. So what if you look like a Southern belle. You'll be a lot cooler than those suckers without them.
5. The DPS office on Dacoma.
No one wants to go to the Department of Public Safety office ever, but the occasional trip to renew a driver's license or something similar might become necessary. If and when it does, do NOT go to the office on Dacoma off Highway 290 in near northwest Houston. Not only is it one of the busiest DPS offices in the county, but the level of frustration there nears the level on a conservative radio show. Last time I was there, I heard "This is bullshit!" at least three times before I decided I'd be safer somewhere else.
4. The Galleria at Christmas.
Ironically, I put this very thing on my Houston Bucket List last year because the Galleria can truly be magical, but I added the caveat that alcohol may indeed be necessary for survival. Getting to the Galleria alone on the weekend after Thanksgiving, for example, is its own little Christmas miracle, and once inside, you have to run the gamut of overstimulated shoppers. Expect bruises from bumping into people and their packages...or, you know, just shop online.
3. In line for breakfast at The Breakfast Klub.
The catfish and chicken and waffles dishes at The Breakfast Klub in Midtown are fantastic. Standing in line for more than an hour to get them is not. It has gotten so ridiculous that what used to be the parking lot is now completely blocked off on weekend mornings (and afternoons) so that pop-up tents can be set up to keep people in the shade. The restaurant even put up a temporary water, tea and coffee table to accommodate guests who line up around the block. Pro tip: Get in when it first opens to avoid the lines. This story continues on the next page.
2. On Interstate 10 during a flood.
If you didn't know it already, Houston is flood-prone. Sure, it has been awhile since we've seen any significant rainfall thanks to a lingering drought that began in 2011. But all it takes is a trip back to Hurricane Ike (or farther back to Tropical Storm Allison) to remind us what a deluge can do to our city. One of the worst places to be in inclement weather is on Interstate 10 between downtown and Loop 610 West. The sunken freeway fills up like a river, leaving cars and people in its wake.
1. Rush hour traffic...anywhere.
In a recent Houston Press cover story, I looked at the tangle of traffic in Houston, and the general consensus of everyone I spoke with was that Houston traffic is an absolute mess and there are few simple answers to solving the problem. One way to deal with it on a personal level is to get out of rush-hour traffic. Leave a little early for work or hit a restaurant for dinner before going home. Try working from home if possible or live in town and work farther out so your commute is against traffic. Here's a noble thought: Try public transportation. We all love our cars, but maybe a little too much because, and I don't know if you have noticed, it is freaking brutal out there.