My first business trip to Houston was actually my second trip there. My first trip to Houston was in 2001 when I bought a car on Ebay (a Mercedes 300TE wagon), then drove it home. It was a nice trip. I stopped in Bouluxi, Missisippi when I got too sleepy to drive and got a hotel room for the night. Anyhow, leaving for the airport on this recent trip I was driving from Webster, Texas to the airport. As I stopped at a turn light at the on ramp to the Interstate, there was a slight moment–less than a second–when I quickly ascertained that no traffic was moving and I could turn right on red, which I did. Maybe a second later I saw the blue light in my rearview mirror of a motorcycle cop, one of Webster’s finest, who induced me to pull over into the road leading into a shopping mall. I explained my situation: I have a flight. I was here for a NASA meeting. “Did you see the sign saying NO RIGHT TURN ON RED?” he said. “No,” I said. “A woman crossing the street almost got run over there recently,” he said. I apologized profusely. After thoroughly checking me out on his computer, he let me go with a warning. God bless Webster, Texas’ finest.
As I neared the airport, the directions to the rental car place included all companies except the Alamo brand I needed to return. A call to Alamo got me bad directions, so there I was, heading in the wrong direction, which intuitively I figured out. I pulled off the road and called again, this time getting better directions. People drive fast in Texas. That’s fine. I love it. But, I’m used to Orlando and now, the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. (When I lived in Fort Worth, the speed limit was 55 mph on the Interstate and on the loop around the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex it was a rare soul doing less than 80 mph. It was common to see people routinely do 100 mph.) I must cross two lanes and turn left as I get back on the road, which doesn’t seem to be a main thoroughfare. As I pull out to cross the two lanes, a car going a very high rate of speed comes along in the lane I want to pull into, so I stop straddling the lane (no choice). Now I’m driving a Ford Taurus, which over ten years ago I told myself I’d never rent again, yet, here I am in one, because I made the mistake of giving the bull another chance. (Yes, this car is a dog. Anyway, there’s no human way one can get it into reverse with the sloppy shifter and backup in a couple of seconds.) This last part is important, because when I stopped I observed on my left a large SUV-type pickup truck moving directly towards my driver’s door at a very high rate of speed. There was no time to backup (as noted). I had the sudden thought that it was not my intention to have it all end, not my expectation to give up the game, here in Houston this morning, hurrying to catch a plane. The second and a half or so it took the pickup truck zooming towards my door quickly passed. Right as he approached me, he managed to stop his truck a few feet away. He was laughing. I pointed in the direction of the car that cut me off in explanation, then managed to back the clunky, new Ford Taurus off the road. When I finally made it to the rental car return, I boarded the shuttle to the airport most gratefully and have never been so happy to be sitting in an airport shuttle.