I Wish We’d All STFU About Paying Tolls

You ever read something that makes you want to bash your face into your keyboard (“this blog” is not an acceptable or creative answer)? Okay, me too. Today it came from an article about the cost of tolls, published in the Dallas Morning News. I managed to evade it when it was first published, but Facebook (my nemesis) kept pushing it to the top of my newsfeed. Dammit.

I love Texas, I really do. But this is A Blog About Things That Irritate  Me. Maybe one day I’ll submit “53.5 Reasons Why Dallas is the Best” to Buzzfeed. But here, all is fair — and hearing Texans talk about tolls (whether as consumers or as NTTA representatives) makes me want to cry.

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Expensive tollways!

First thing in this article….

The emergence of North Texas as Toll Road Capital, USA, represents failure of government of the worst kind. We have to pay for what we could do for free.

Oh, really? I forgot that the rest of America has free roads. They  just appear over night, constructed by the street elves that make each piece of material out of magic, hopes, and dreams. I think the author is a Dallas native, so I’m not pointing the finger at him for this…for some reason this idea runs rampant in Texas. It’s like “the man” has come to destroy our fun and make us pay for our roads. Meanwhile, we don’t have a state income tax — and has anyone else ever made the drive from DC to Boston? Because it is $$$ and each of those states charges income tax to their residents.

I once reported the story of a 34-year-old single mother who spent 27 hours in the Allen jail and then the Collin County Detention Center. Police wouldn’t even tell her, at first, why they were arresting her. It was all about a toll bill for $11 from years before. She said she never got it.

I ended up having to Google it, but this is the case he’s talking about. If we had a debtor’s prison in America, Sallie Mae would be the number one reason people are in prison, not drugs. What genius created the TX provision that says not paying tolls is theft akin to stealing money from a business instead of equating it to credit card debt? Did it seem more likely that people would pay their debts if they were criminally prosecuted, and hopefully subjected to prison? I hear the going rates for jobs in prison are excellent. What does NTTA say about this?

At present, individuals do not go to jail for failure to pay a toll. If a warrant is issued and someone goes to jail, it’s because they failed to appear in JP court to address a citation for failure to pay a toll issued under Section 366.178 of the Texas Transportation Code.

At present? Who the fuck do you think you are, NTTA? Capital One can’t throw you in jail for owing $500,000, but god forbid you owe $10 to NTTA…at present you can’t go to jail…but maybe later. Enough of this bullshit thing where NTTA is publicly run and privately run and no one really knows what’s going on. You can go to jail for not paying fines to the state, but you can’t go to jail for not paying fines to a private corporation. Get your shit together. And why is Texas allowing this to happen? Why not just garnish your wages like  REGULAR DEBT?

Here’s the thing. I’m not mad at the article (other than the ridiculous claim that non-toll roads are “free”). I’m pissed off that NTTA abuses its power — and I’m even more pissed off about people bitching about NTTA. I never hear people complain they’re going to jail. That is clearly a small, tiny portion of North Texas drivers. I’m pissed that people bitch and moan that roads should be free, that tollways shouldn’t have traffic, that the LBJ sliding scale HOV tolls are evil, etc. Just pay the goddamn toll. I’m one of a very few people I know of that actually pay the tolls. WHY?!

There’s this myth in Texas that everything is just different there. We get a tiny quarter inch of snow — it’s different than the snow anywhere else. We get a tollroad — it’s different than tollroads anywhere else. Not in the fact that you can, in a backwards sort of way, end up in jail. But because we have to pay the tolls. Let’s just take federal funding, charge an income tax, and call it a day…then we’ll see what you like better. If you’re going to complain about NTTA, complain about the weird public/private power it has, not that you can’t go places for free.

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A day in the life of an Addison resident


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Can You Help My AK Pick a Filter? I Don’t Know if I Should Go With XX Pro or Valencia. Also, Target Pretends to Care about Guns

Look, I support your right to have a gun. I even support your right to open carry your gun. But I do not support you in your endeavor to be a complete and total asshole. Remember back in May, when those open carry assholes decided that instead of Instagramming pictures of their burritos at Chipotle, they’d rather IG pictures of themselves holding assault rifles at Chipotle? What you probably don’t remember is all of the normal, sane people who elect to open carry in Arizona and don’t cause a general ruckus. Mostly because they, you know, don’t violate the law and jeopardize a business’s licensing just to make their point.

photoOops!

Now Target has decided to request their customers do not bring guns into their stores, even in states that allow open carry. Um, are the open carry people who bring their assault rifles into places like Starbucks and Target actually anti-gun people who are doing their best to make gun laws as restrictive as possible? Because they’re doing a bang up job convincing people that they’re insane. Fortunately, Open Carry Texas (whose work at appropriate places, like the Alamo, I respected), made a Facebook response to Target to clear up how they feel. Texas OC clarifies that they won’t stoop so low as to interfere with or infringe upon the rights of a private corporation; they even bring up their MONTHS LONG policy of not acting like a bunch of dipshits carrying weapons into fast food establishments. They do decide to point out some important information that Target may have overlooked, though:

Time and time again, businesses that have asked guests not to bring legally possessed, self defense firearms into their establishments have seen their employees and customers victimized by criminals preying on the openly defenseless.

That sounds awful, right? Are you, as a casual reader of this information, curious about the studies that prove this, other than “time”? You aren’t alone:

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Yeah. You’re reading that correctly.
Reader: Do you have any studies to back that up?
OC Texas: Go fuck yourself.

Are they just in some contest with the Hobby Lobby owners to see who can be the most universally disliked group of people in America? What possesses a real organization to not support their comments with stats? And then to be rude when someone inquires about it?

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Open Carry, y’all might want to buy this book

 Then there’s the part where Target didn’t actually ban guns. They basically just said, “Hey guys, we think it would be really super cool if you stopped bringing your guns into our stores. We aren’t going to abide by any state laws and post the required signs that keep our property gun free, we’re going to just ask nicely.” Why? Because the people who are offended by guns haven’t taken any gun classes and don’t know the difference. Newsflash: Nothing has changed, here. If you’re legally allowed to carry in your weapon, you’re still legally allowed to bring it. You’re just a rude asshole if you do it now.

photo (1) Here I am, Instagramming myself leaving the NRA shooting range — looking totally normal, unlike some people.

Follow me on Facebook or IG…my Instagram is mostly alcohol, not guns. For that Chainsmokers song I probably got stuck in your head with the title, go here.

Finding Love on Dallas Area Rapid Transit: I Don’t Want Your Dirty Tennis Ball, But I Do Miss the DC Metro

My best friend and I were in Dallas for the first time ever (a weeklong vacation that would ultimately result in my permanent residence in the city), and being under 25, we decided to rely on public transit (this was before the days of Uber). When we asked the hotels we stayed at if they knew anything about DART, they acted like we were out of our minds. We didn’t listen to them…how bad could it be? Well. Our 3:00 pm stroll through West End Station was peppered with calls of “hey white ladies!” and “Hey you white girls, what are you doing here?” from men who came and stood too close to us. It was bizarrely aggressive behavior for the middle of the day, and something that could certainly have been stopped by ANYONE IN UNIFORM coming up and just saying hi to us. Neither of us were afraid, but we were definitely uncomfortable — largely because we both realized if anything were to escalate, there were no people readily identifiable as employees of the transit system or the city to come to our aid.

Flash forward to this past weekend, when I’m minding my own business on my  phone. I can’t even try to tell this as a story, so here it is in script form.

Guy: Are you taking my picture?
Me: Are you…talking to me? What? No.
Guy: Do you have a boyfriend?
Me: Yes.
Guy: really? What’s his name?
Me: Andrew.
Guy [reaches underneath the seat and grabs something from his friend sitting in front of him]: You play tennis, right? I got you this. [procures a dirty, used tennis ball.] You can have two boyfriends, you know.
Me: What? No, no thanks. I don’t play tennis, and I don’t think Andrew would like that.
Guy: You could. [gets off train]

While that story is just funny and bizarre and not scary, it goes to my point that every time I go on DART I’m asked on a date. Sometimes it’s weird and WTF like that, other times it’s creepy and while I’m being recorded and then while I’m being followed off the train. Those times are less humorous. They also take place earlier than 9 pm.

Despite the knee-jerk accusations of DART defenders, I’m not racist, classist, or sheltered from what public transit is like. Obviously I took Metro quite a bit when I lived in DC, and I still take Metro, MARC, and Baltimore’s Light Rail when I go back. I have even fully relied on the Detroit public bus system to get around town. I lived/gypsied all over the DC area, frequently in areas where I couldn’t even get a pizza delivered to my home, but I’d say living in Oxon Hill and using the PG side of the green line was really the highlight of my slumming it. Every place I’ve lived in Dallas has been cheaper, safer, and I can get any food brought right to my front door.

So why is it that when I take the light rail in Dallas, I long for the days of sitting on the green line, wondering if my car will still be at Branch Ave (spoiler alert: not always)? Even though DART has lower crime numbers than Metro (and we’ll get to that in a minute), the aggressive and harassing behavior of my fellow passengers is way more worrisome on DART.

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Perplexing, and yet I found it more welcoming under this sign than on DART

I have been wondering if there is just so little intermingling between classes and races that my being a single white female simply makes people more likely to same something to me. Indeed, most of the harassing behavior I deal with on DART comes from people who feel the need to point out the color of my skin. Even when I lived in areas of PG that were 1% white, less attention was drawn to my race.  I’m still trying to understand Texas racial and social norms, and I don’t know how to interpret this.

I’ve also felt, especially in the cases of going home in poorer areas of the District (specifically living in Landover once the train was passed Eastern Market, and living in Oxon Hill once the train passed the baseball stadium) and in being on the bus in Detroit, that there’s a little bit of a feeling like, “hey we all live here and we’re all on this train so let’s get along and keep to ourselves and roll our eyes at each other if someone acts a fool.” Not to say I always felt super safe on Metro or the Detroit bus, but when it was 8:00 at night and I was clearly coming from work, taking the Detroit bus down Jefferson or riding Metro through Addison Road, no one really ever said much to me other than, “Oh, do you live/work around here?” And these are locations that make the DART system’s criminal activities look like preschool.

At the end of the day, DART is super safe. Allegedly. As I am beginning to understand it, DART is responsible for hiring their own officers and, presumably, doing their own crime statistics.  WMATA does the courtesy of publishing per station crimes. I can’t find that for DART. It makes me feel like something sketchy is going on here…that little chart contains very little information.

I don’t like to call for more police presence, but I do wish that there were (some? any?) Dallas PD at the stations, or that DART employees other than the train drivers were visible (existent?). There also aren’t any huge, easily visible maps at most of the stations. Want to guarantee you look like you don’t belong and become an easy target? Look like you don’t know where you’re going. Easy to do on DART! They want to spend all of this money expanding their services when they can’t even get it right where it’s already set up, and that’s a shame — because traffic sucks out here.

 

“Are we a town of bigotry?” Yes.

“Are we a town of bigotry?” Yes.

Applying to law school? Sending out your resume to midlevel jobs? Better purge your Facebook of all pictures of you out with your friends!

Looking to work for the city of Addison? Tom Hunse can tell you all about how you ought to beef up your LinkedIn with racist statements!

Better to be Christian and Have Dementia than to be Muslim and Qualified

Someone asked me the other day what’s wrong with Dallas — if it’s so cheap to live there, there must be some kind of catch. I didn’t know the answer then, but I sure do now. I should just forward him this article.

So the mayor of Addison (a Dallas suburb where yours truly lives) appoints this nut job, Tom Hunse, to the city’s planning and zoning committee. This is AFTER Hunse quit his job on a different school board because a Muslim was chosen to head the school (and published that info on his LinkedIn!!). Um, what?

Not only that, but Jo Lynn Haussmann, a member of the Keller school board, recently posted to Facebook: “SOUTHLAKE — Do you realize because SO FEW voters took the time and responsibility to VOTE in the municipal elections — YOU NOW HAVE A ‘MUSLIM’ on the City Council!!! What a SHAME!!!!!”

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If that isn’t enough to make you weep for humanity, the comments on the article certainly are. People don’t seem to support the removal of these public officials from their positions — and instead support them and their right to free speech/speak the truth. Sure, you can say whatever you want, but you should expect your bigoted statements to have consequences.

The school board held a meeting, but they couldn’t force her to resign. Here’s the contact information for the Keller ISD in case anyone feels like expressing their opinion. Let’s not forget that she has dementia…maybe she just isn’t qualified.

 

In DC, civilians rarely asked me why I studied Arabic (the general military response is a whole different issue); probably because everyone wants to work for the government and the area has the third highest percentage of Arab Americans in the country. In Texas, people act like they can’t fathom why I would do such a thing. It’s a shame Arabic isn’t offered in more Dallas area schools, since learning a new language forces you to learn about a new culture and helps combat being an ignorant prick. Because let’s be real…most people making these remarks can’t tell you where anything but Egypt is on the map and don’t know Arabic from Kurdish from Dari from Urdu, but they certainly can tell you all about why they hate those damn terrorists.

 

Oh, by the way — I’d love to share more news information on Tom Hunse, but that single article is the only one that comes up if you Google news.