One of my many pet peeves are the “best” or most “livable” city lists. Mainly because they are so wrong. Not just kind of wrong, or a little bit off the mark, but really woefully inaccurate.
I know this because I’ve lived in a couple of the cities that are always at the top of the list and it leaves me wondering just what in the heck are these “researchers” using for data. The food truck-to-population ratio?
Austin is usually riding high on any “best” city list and I love Texas with all my heart. Austin is certainly a vibrant city. But I feel compelled to reveal that it’s also rife with things that perhaps this list makers need to be honest about. For example, bugs, oodles of venomous snakes and killer fire ants.
Not a week goes by that I don’t see some Austinite on my Facebook page posting a picture of the huge snake he or she found on eir deck, in the Suburban, or lounging in the freaking toilet and even the pantry, because reaching for a jar of Skippy peanut butter needs to be a life-or-death challenge.
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Since everything is bigger in Texas you have a cornucopia of venomous snakes that include nine kind of rattlesnakes, coral snakes, copperheads and say hello to North America’s only venomous water snake: the 4-foot water moccasin. In Texas talk, these snakes come in sizes that range from so big they have to “sit down in two shifts” to being as “wide as two ax handles.”
It’s a venomous snake-a-topia. It’s not for nothing that in kindergarten, every Texas 5-year-old is taught this ditty: “Red and yellow, kill a fellow. Red and black, you’re OK, Mack” to learn about how to spot a deadly coral snake – the second most venomous snake in the world (yes WORLD) that likes nothing better than hiding on your patio.
Now, let’s move on to the unofficial state insect: the fire ant. These devious devil spawns create what to the unsuspecting eye are little sand mounds. These dunes are in every yard and field in Central Texas. If you’re not walking on pavement consider yourself fire ant mound adjacent.
It is almost impossible to make it through a summer not being attacked by angry, vicious fire ants. The ants have a painful sting that makes bees seem as lethal as a Build-a-Bear. Fire ants, I’ll have you know, can bring down a 2,000 pound Santa Gertrudis cow.
All of this coupled with the blistering heat that lasts from March to October makes spending time in our own yard fraught with peril. Yes, yes, Austin has some beautiful lakes and parks, but let’s review shall we?
You don’t want to get in the water because of the water moccasins doing the slither swim looking to kill you and you don’t want to walk on the pavement because the sun has rendered it the same temperature of a solar flare and you can’t walk in the grass because you might unexpectedly step on a fire ant mound and get attacked. I ask you, where is that, in the “best of” or “most livable” criteria?
These lists need to expand their categories to include having an air conditioning-use index and a catalog of things that can kill you that aren’t mammals. That alone would mean no city in Florida would ever make any “livability” list because of the big three: sinkholes, crocs/gators and a humidity index of more than 90 percent.
Until these best places to live features start reflecting data that is meaningful beyond hipsters per square mile, I’m going to have to greet each one with snake eyes.