Howdy Austin, Texas

More often than I should, I find myself rushing for the plane no matter how early I’ve gone through security. This time I was the last passenger on the flight to Austin, the capital of Texas. For some reason, they changed my seat as I boarded the plane.

When I found my seat, it had more legroom than normal economy seats. There were two very large people sitting in my row. I was thankful, for once, that I had the aisle seat because if I had had the window seat and wanted to pop to the loo, it would have been a palaver.

I wondered if the reason I appeared to have more legroom was an optical illusion created by the two large people squashed into their seats. Perhaps, it was a variation of the Spinal Tap Stonehenge/dwarves scene.

It turned out that none of that was true. A flight attendant came along and asked me if I’d realised I was in an exit seat and whether I knew my duty (helping people get off the plane). I swallowed as I imagined my two neighbours and me blocking the gangway.

For most of the two and a half hours, I read Michelle Obama’s autobiography since, after Austin, I was going to Chicago. The only other notable thing on the flight was when a flight attendant gave me my drink and said, “Your accent is delightful”! Of course, it’s not delightful but it is different from an American accent.

On arriving, I weighed up taking a Lyft/Uber versus a bus. In the end, I opted for a bus because it was twenty minutes earlier than a pooled cab. Finding the bus required asking one of the cleaning staff. I learnt that they’re the ones who know these things, presumably because they actually use public transport.

The bus driver told me the bus fare into town was $1.25, which is good for an hour’s journey. I put a dollar into the machine but didn’t have 25 cents. The driver said the machine didn’t give change. I said that I didn’t mind getting no change from the second dollar. This set the cogs turning in his head since it upset the general order of things. Eventually, he replied that one dollar was fine and waved me in!

When I got to the hostel one of my roommates (from Texas), on discovering I was from the UK, started talking incessantly about football (British football not American). He said he was thankful he could finally talk to someone who knew about football. He was a Chelsea supporter and knew about not only the Premiership but also other European football leagues. My knowledge of football had faded several years ago in line with Arsenal’s prospects of winning anything under Arsene Wenger. We talked for about an hour before an escape opportunity opened up.

I went into the lounge and quickly found myself in an intense discussion with another guest. He told me, after a few diplomatic questions from me, that he lived in Austin but had been kicked out of his house by his wife and was now being divorced. The papers had been served. He said he was going to use the opportunity (!) to return to his “polyamorous ways”. When I enquired whether he was polyamorous during his marriage, he said we was polyamorous before his marriage. That was fifteen years ago when he was a teenager. I wondered aloud whether his polyamorousness was a fancy way of saying that he was “playing the field”! He said, “Possibly”.

Anyway, this analysis continued for a while, including during dinner, which we had together in the popular and fashionable bar of the hostel. I learnt that he had now found an inexpensive flat to move into, which was just as well since he was now living on his credit card having burnt through his last pay cheque and savings.

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