SXSW-ers are in town this week, and apparently I look pleasant and motherly or something, 'cause I've been getting asked for directions a lot at bus-stops and on the bus and in the 'hood.
Maybe 10 or 15 years ago, I was annoyed at the annual influx of out-of-towners wearing their pants tucked into cowboy boots and their "ironic" straw cowboy hats. Now, though, outsiders seem to have calmed down a bit with the idiotic dress-up and condescension and recognize Austin as simply a music/film/tech center. (Though Andy Cohen's "Watch What Happens" on Bravo, live from Austin this week, still has stupid "Yee-haw!" cowboy graphics at the beginning of each show -- Austin has NEVER been a cowboy town, has always, since the '50s, been "alternative." And Jimmy Kimmel, also live from Austin this week, actually asked the audience last night if they'd heard of RuPaul!)
So anyway, since last Friday, I've had 4 people ask about where our bus was going and could it get them to [whatever South By event downtown]. And once I had to turn around and volunteer some info to a group of young guys who were yelling at one of their friends for supposedly getting them on the wrong bus: "Look, dude! We're heading the wrong way! We need to get off NOW!" I, being motherly as is my wont, had to calm them and say, "No, no, look, we're turning right and then we're heading back downtown..."
Today, though, I had a freaky experience with an out-of-towner: At the bus-stop from my workplace way up north, a young, dirty white woman with dreads and a whole suitcase (not just a backpack) literally PUSHED her way past me to get on the then-empty bus. She made her way to a window-seat near the back. And I then sat right behind her, in a spot that I usually like to sit in.
She turned around and said to me, "Do you HAVE to sit right behind me?"
Me: [puzzled] What?
Her: Do you have to sit RIGHT BEHIND ME?
Me: [still puzzled] What are you talking about?
Her: There are all of these empty seats. Do you HAVE TO SIT RIGHT BEHIND ME?
Me: It's a BUS! It's empty right now, but I promise you it's going to get filled up pretty soon, and there's going to be SOMEBODY sitting behind you!
Her: This is very weird.
Me: YOU are VERY WEIRD. What is your PARANOID PROBLEM?!
Her: [dramatically picks up all her heavy stuff and moves across the aisle]
Me: [dramatically taking out my reading glasses and opening up my "New Yorker" in the hopes of not appearing like a bus-freak who SITS BEHIND PEOPLE]
I was gratified to see that at the very next stop, someone else got on and sat down right in front of me without being freaked out, AND that someone else got on and sat down right BEHIND her new spot! I looked over at her to see if she recognized the IRONY, but... no reaction. (I was also gratified, about 15 minutes later, to hear her suddenly burst out with a stream of cursing directed at her suitcase. Gratified to know that it wasn't just ME...)