I should probably anonymize this blog before I post this, or else risk facial profiling by the ATX PD. Oh well.
The National Sport of the District of Columbia is jay-walking. Once you watch someone float across Constitution or Independence Aves during free-flowing mid-day traffic, or better yet New York Ave on a Friday afternoon, you realize that there could be gold medals handed out for this type of law breaking.
And it is a sport of style. There are two goals: not have to alter your path and pace, and not require any driver to alter their path and pace. Diagonal lines and timing are key. Tourists and new residents are immediately obvious. Those who do it well are amazing to watch, frankly.
It doesn't take that much time in Austin to realize that people here don't jay-walk. They don't even cross in a crosswalk against a light when it is safe to do so. SXSW just ended and the tens of thousands of extra drunk people knocking around downtown, oh so politely waited on corners to cross in crosswalks. I even saw groups waiting for a light to let them cross immediately in front of - and parallel to - a "road closed" sign. As in, there are definitely no cars coming your way and there won't be until the road is reopened several days from now, yet here you stand.
In DC, if that many people gathered for any reason, streets would be forced into serving as pedestrian malls at the whim of the crowd.
Monday morning I watched as someone stood and waited for a light to cross a street deserted as far I could see in both directions. It was 6:15 am and the sun wasn't up. To this woman I ask, were you just too tired to be thinking logically?
Jay-walking isn't what makes traffic in DC so bad, and not jay-walking certainly isn't making the traffic in Austin better. And Austinites aren't overly law-abiding in other ways. So the mystery remains.
I think it's just going to end up being one of those things I chalk up as an unassailable cultural difference, which will become clear to me when I have lived here long enough to be considered a Texan. Which is to say, never.