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The Emasculating Hostel

Posted on November 10th, 2007 after 13660 miles by Dean Croshere.

I stayed at a hostel in Dallas.

It was an interesting place, completely informal. I had to follow some strange instructions printed on the front door of what was otherwise just a large house. The instructions asked me to wander around to the back and knock on the door there.

I did.

“Hello?” The apparent owner of the establishment came and opened it.

“Uh, Hi.” I responded.

“Hi.” He retorted.

“Um, is this a hostel?” It certainly appeared to be one. There were quite a few people of various nationalities milling about, mostly watching TV. Not to mention the sign on the door that read, “hostel”

“Yes.” He answered as if this was a strange conversation to him.

This was followed by an awkward pause. I kind of figured my desire would be obvious. I’m at a hostel, I need to stay a place for the night. I kind of figured he would offer, or ask if he could help me. Something.

“Can I get a place to stay for the night?”

“Sure!” It’s like he finally figured out why I was there. He didn’t seem to be slow or unintelligent. I actually think he was just shy, which seems really odd for an owner of a hostel.

Since I still didn’t have cash, and he wouldn’t take a check, we worked out me paying him through Paypal, which cost a couple of extra bucks, but I suppose it worked.

He showed me my bunk. It was covered in plastic with a thin sheet thrown over it. It was the middle of three bunks. I had to find some method of climbing into it while laying down. I had about two or three vertical feet, not even enough to bend a knee up.

All told, it was a nice warm bed for not much money.

The other people milling about the hostel kept to themselves. I heard bits and pieces. There was one girl who was hitchhiking across the country with her backpack. She managed to get a guy in a big rig to drop her off at the hostel.

There was a couple from Germany, and another group that was speaking some Asian language.

All told, they make my little trip look weak, driving about in my car, staying with friends and family and in my own country. It felt strange to have my endeavor emasculated without intention in this way. Luckily I distracted myself and stopped worrying about it.

I arrived early in the evening and sat down to write a post, an endeavor that took several hours, as usual. Due to this, and the fact that I left early the next morning, I didn’t get a chance to see much of anything in the Dallas/Forth Worth area.

I did notice one thing. The drivers are more timid than anywhere else in the nation. Most of them are, anyway.

I think it is because there is so much space. In New York, where I’ve found the most aggressive drivers, there is no space. There are many cars and not much road. Drivers must go where they need to go, and everyone else must get out of their way.

In Texas, there is enough space to be gracious to other people and expect them to be gracious in return.

Gracious drivers are not necessarily good drivers. I’ve had people stop on uncongested quickly moving through streets to let me pull out from a stop sign.

It may have been the gracious thing to do, but it was unpredictable and thus dangerous. If they had just kept driving I would have been able to pull out behind them just as quickly as waiting for, and figuring out why, they stopped.

I have never seen so many people afraid to merge as I have in Texas. In traffic, merging usually only requires the most basic establishment that the person behind you sees what you are doing, usually established with a handy signal built into your car. People are really good at reading the “body language” of cars.

They can see a car that is about to change lanes, and they will give them space. If they don’t, they will cause an accident, and no one wants that.

In Texas, people seem to be unwilling to trust that they will be given access to a lane. They will drive with their signal on until there is an extremely large amount of space before they move over. At one point, while stopped at a light, I had to honk at someone who had stopped with his car halfway between two lanes. He was looking back at me like I was going to drive through him or something. Just drive. Go.

Of course, not everyone is timid. There is still a portion of the drivers that will not signal or wait for you to notice them.

I prefer an entire population of predictably aggressive drivers to a partial population of gracious ones.

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