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A Texan's Right to Valet

I haven't been writing very much about Texas, which is strange for me.  There is a lot of good material here, but I wasn't feeling it for a little while.  I worry people will think that I stopped examining culture and our daily intersections with it; but fear not.  On the matter of Houstonian daily life, I just went quiet, like a submarine.  But I'm back at the surface now.

There is something that has struck me from day one here, and I'm told it is common practice in Texas.  Almost everywhere you go, there is valet parking.  Every restaurant, which in most cases means in every strip mall since that's where most of the restaurants are, even in every shopping area...I can't think of a place where you can't roll up to the front door and hand over your keys for a couple of bucks.  There is usually a little handful of front row parking spots marked off with orange cones right in plain view of the entrance to said destination.

My husband and I find it hilarious because you can emerge from dinner in the curious position of standing directly in front of your car, but not being able to drive away in it because you gave your keys the the valet guy who is now nowhere to be seen.  Where we are from, valet is only for the weak of spirit, or for when it is forty below and you are forced to wear special-occasion clothing that exposes your skin to the frigid air, or possibly for when you are faced with undeniable evidence that if you try to park your own car, you will have such a long walk to your destination that you will miss the engagement for which you were parking in the first place.

A few weekends ago we had a big discussion about all of this valet business with our friend who is (sort of) from here.  He said, "that's just the way we do it in Texas," and I told him that that did not exempt it from being silly.  However, I must be getting used to it, because later that week, I used valet parking twice in one day, even though regular parking was available and it was sixty-five degrees: once for a doctor's appointment and later on a quick errand to a clothing store.

Tonight we ate at a Texan-taco response to the Chipotle craze: Torchy's Tacos.  Cheap, fresh, generally delightful.  As we sat outside in the balmy evening having a beer and eating cilantro-infused queso, I felt relaxed in a way I don't normally feel at restaurants here.  There was something about this place reminding me of home, even though there was nothing Minnesota about the menu.  Half-way through dinner, I realized that Torchy's hadn't gotten the memo about the valet parking.  We found a casual, yummy restaurant that didn't involve surrendering our keys or making a cash transaction in the parking lot.  We had to hunt around a little for a parking spot and it made me feel right at home.