It’s safe to say we have a fair amount of intelligent people amongst us, what with the medical and energy industries taking up a fair amount of Houston’s job corps. Unfortunately, being “book smart” doesn’t get you through things like extreme heat, hurricane season, or taco line anxiety. To survive, well-versed locals have had to develop the even-more-valuable street smarts, like these critical life skills.
Hunker down for a hurricane
Real Houstonians know how to judge the need to flee when necessary (hint: it's when they tell you to evacuate), and when to hunker down like a pro. It’s simple, really: get more water than you think you’ll need, plus peanut butter, beef jerky, and a truck load of tequila. Also, maybe more stuff that could potentially save your life. That’d be cool, too.
Navigate the roads without losing your mind
Hellacious traffic. Never-ending construction. Speed traps. Flash floods. Clutch City isn’t known for its pleasant driving situations. It takes a vet to navigate the city without turning into a damn maniac on wheels. Knowing the other maniacs could be packing heat usually helps to keep things calm.
Order tacos correctly
There are so many variables here -- quantity, kind of tortilla (corn or flour), fillings, toppings, how willing you are to burn your tongue off with sauce... and each factor is highly dependent on the taqueria. But the one thing you can be sure of is that the line is going to move at lightning speed. As such, the most seasoned Houstonians know to have a game plan ready no matter where they are grabbing the goods.
Convince coworkers to eat somewhere besides Whataburger
This one takes some finesse, because chances are that 75% of the people you lunch with are die-hard Whataburger fans who are more than happy to eat it for the third Friday in a row. We get it: it’s easy, cheap, and you can stick a candle in a chicken biscuit and have pretty much the best birthday cake ever. That being said, there’s too much to lose by not Jedi-mind-tricking your nearly-retired lab tech into trying pho for the first time. Plus, we’re fairly certain those double patties are going to take a toll on important things like your overall well-being.
Spend all day at an icehouse day drinking
In Houston, chances are it’s patio weather. No, seriously, go look out the window right now and tell us you don’t wish you were day drinking. While anyone can pull this off, it’s harder to pull it off respectably. Bad decision or good decision, the choice is yours. Make the right one.
Peel crawfish quickly and efficiently
Unless you had your veteran crawfish-peeling uncle Pat, or a friend that lived here for at least one season, around to coach you through it, we’re pretty sure your first crawfish experience was kind of like watching a Guns N' Roses reunion concert: sweaty, sloppy, and not very satisfying for anyone involved. But that’s because you need to get your form down. Twist. Peel. Pinch. Suck.
Exist outside in the summer
Whether it’s making it through Free Press Summer Festival without getting carried away by the EMTs or doing something as simple as taking your dog for a midday walk, learning how to exist outdoors in our hottest months is a Houston right of passage. It’s not that natives are immune to the sun, it’s that they know to stay hydrated, wear hats and sunscreen, finish any physical activity with a cold beer, and have at least one friend with a pool.
Play bags without looking like a moron
First things first: is your beer in your hand? Because if it’s not, you look stupid. Now, are you throwing it underhand, giving it a slight spin, and following through like a professional bowler but in a cool way? Then you got it. Now drink your beer and try not to brag too much.
Properly handle a jalapeño
Too many fresh chiles on your burger? That’ll happen. Veterans know to use a fork to pull those guys off, not their hands. If, for whatever reason, they have made direct contact with one, those paws will be washed, then again, then, like, another five times before they go anywhere near the eyes (or, heaven forbid, down the pants).
Not get too attached
Oh, that cafe you’ve been going to loyally for 20 years? It’s gone now. That new restaurant you totally loved? Buh-bye. Astroworld? Shut down, bro! How about that late-night pizza place? The owner and manager set it on fire for insurance money, then got caught and arrested on arson charges because he was an idiot. Either way, think of your favorite local establishments like characters from Game of Thrones. NO ONE IS SAFE.
Win the battle against roaches
No matter how clean you keep your bathroom, garage, and bedroom, those little sons-a-bitches are going to sneak into your living situation from time to time. This is Houston, learn how to deal with it.
Properly dress yourself for the day
One would think dressing for the day would be easy. When it comes to gearing up in Houston, however, one would be foolishly wrong. Locals traverse through a series of climates, from their freezing-cold air-conditioned offices and burning-hot car seats, to sudden torrential downpours, followed by blistering no-pants weather. True Houstonians know to carry everything they'll need for the day in their trunk.
Rookie mistakes include not purchasing your beer before Sunday, thinking you can reserve a parking space for your friends who didn’t join you in waking up at dawn’s butt crack, and not having a smoker in the shape of a bull. Don’t be a rookie.
Pull off a halfway-decent two-step
Nice Southern gals like a nice Southern fella who can spin ‘em around the dance floor. Or at least one who has the confidence to pretend he knows what he's doing as he spins ‘em around the dance floor.
Show guests a good time
Look, we don’t have a beautiful body of water where we can spend the day taking in the sun, or any super cool tourist attractions that locals also love... or any super cool tourist attractions that tourists really love, either, for that matter. But do you know what we do have? Plenty of breweries at which to day drink, tons of awesome things to stuff your face with, a sweet shopping situation, a dope arts scene, a bayou with trails straight to Downtown, a dog park, and BATS! The trick is taking guests to the places you enjoy instead of trying to prove Houston’s worth through fancy stuff. We’re not fancy, and that’s fine by us.
Sign up here for our daily Houston email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.
Brooke Viggiano is a Houston writer who, after a jalapeño-pickling experience gone horribly wrong, can now confidently say she knows how to do all of the above. Share your own chili pepper horror stories with her @BrookeViggiano.