Last Monday, after work, Katie showed me the following: a hypothesized path of Hurricane Earl, projected to hit the Boston area Friday evening.

Katie and I immediately prepared for the worst. We didn’t need to be reminded of the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Ike, the $15 billion hurricane that ravaged Houston and East Texas, only to be outdone by Katrina. We live a mile from the beach; we feared several feet of rain/ocean water flowing down our street. We started talking about an evacuation plan to Waltham, a western suburb of Boston; Katie would leave first thing Friday morning, and I would try to fight through droves of evacuation traffic after work Friday afternoon. We kept our eye on Earl all week.

I heard the following on the radio the next day:

“Our weather for the next few days, look for hot, muggy conditions for the next three days. Friday, it will cool down a bit. We’re expecting some rain and high winds.”

Some rain and high winds? I’m sorry, a freaking hurricane is heading our way, I thought.

My co-workers shared a similar level of anxiety…or lack thereof. My supervisor told me not to worry–Quincy may get an inch of rain and some 20-30 mph winds. Our office bowling party Thursday evening consisted of bowling, not boarding our windows in preparation for a hurricane.

And it’s not like Boston’s never been hit by a hurricane. In 1991, Hurricane Bob brought 90 mph winds and 3-6 inches of rain to Massachusetts over an evening, causing $1.7 billion in damages, $1 billion to Massachusetts alone. The storm surge was up to 11 feet in some places along the coast.

Friday morning, I drove to work a bit early, expecting to see I-93 traffic lanes clogged with evacuees; I did not. Worse, after work Friday afternoon, I expected to be joined more potential evacuees on Highway 24 from Brockton and I-93 north-bound; there was surprisingly little traffic. Apparently, many Bostonians that lived along the coast stuck around for the hurricane.

On a sidenote, the effects of Hurricane Earl weren’t felt until about 10:30 pm Friday night, about two and a half hours after the Weather Channel predicted. We got an inch or two of rain Friday evening and moderate winds. Really, it felt like a rainstorm in west Texas.

Hurricane Earl did little damage to the Northeast. Hurricanes are not feared by Bostonians.

Katie and I went to dinner in Quincy Center a few nights ago, and I was confronted with one of my worst driving demons: I have no idea how to parallel park.

I’ve found some pretty unique ways to avoid this. When I’ve had to take my car into Boston, I’ll find a side street to park on to avoid the parking meters, and I’ve been lucky enough to have been given large spaces that I can fit into. Our house doesn’t have a driveway (that we can park in anyway), but again, I generally find large enough spaces that I can maneuver my car into without reversing or anything.

But eventually, my luck ran out, and I had to attempt something that never happens in west Texas: a parallel park job. I found an opening, and then spent the next five or so minutes attempting to fit my Dodge Neon into said parking space. Katie estimated that I used around 15 points while attempting to parallel park.

Parallel parking is a way of life in Boston, especially if you live within the 93/95 loop. Hopefully this wonderfully informative video will refresh what you learned in drivers education. Enjoy!

When I left Texas for Boston, friends were giving me advice about the Northeast and shared some common perceptions and stereotypes of New Englanders. Most of the people I talked mentioned Boston driving, and some descriptions of Boston drivers included “aggressive”, “crazy”, and “unsafe”. In fact, I found a website from a Bostoner proudly confirming some of these stereotypes.

(Ironically, watching a 2010-11 Celtics fast break, as this website describes, is a quite accurate description of driving in Boston, although not to the intent of this author. There’s the potential to go fast, with Rondo running the point, but eventually everything slows down as you wait for Shaq/Kendrick Perkins and everyone else catches up to you, creating a massive traffic jam.)

It’s not like west Texas drivers have the best reputation themselves. Driving slightly under the speed limit is common throughout suburban roads. Blinkers are optional, especially when turning onto a new road. I’ve seen some of the most ridiculously lazy parking jobs in the town we just moved from.

I know that some of you may think me crazy, but I find the scary thing about driving in Boston to be the condition of the roads (see Rule #2) and somewhat confusing layout of the city, not the people driving on the roads.

I’m naturally comfortable driving in cities; I grew up in Dallas and had to drive on highways to visit friends who lived elsewhere in the Metroplex or drive to Rangers games or Six Flags. Our house was in a northeast Dallas suburb, so anytime I went back to Abilene for school, I had to drive all the way across Dallas and Fort Worth. My parents often make me drive around the city whenever I come home because they hate driving in Dallas.

I consider Dallas drivers to be safe, even though most of them drive over the speed limit. I haven’t had too many experiences with aggressive or defensive drivers, despite occasionally having someone cut in front of me without using blinkers. So I was afraid that Boston driving would be every man for himself, cut-throat, bumper-to-bumper driving.

While the latter part is true (the traffic is terrible–more on that in a future blog), I’ve discovered that Boston driving has an unwritten, yet commonly shared driving code that is quite opposite of its stereotype.

For example, merging is commonly practiced. During traffic jams, most drivers will leave you space to switch lanes, as long as you use your blinker. There’s a stretch outside of Quincy before I-93 that I drive through each morning where three major roads converge into a construction zone. There seems to be an understood order for who goes when, and it’s not defined by using blinkers or horns.

In Texas (well, the two Texas cities I’ve lived), you have to wait until the coast is clear on both sides if you want to turn left, which could be dreadful if there is a line of traffic going right. Boston drivers also usually leave space for people needing to turn left onto a busy street.

Pedestrians get the right of way in Boston. (And I’ve been a fearful pedestrian in cities in which that’s not the case.)

I’ve heard more horns in Dallas than I have in Boston. Generally, horns in Boston are reserved as gentle reminders for people who don’t go/turn within a second or two of the light turning green. (Taxi drivers are different, especially in the city, but I haven’t had an experience with hailing a cab yet–I’ll share that experience on this blog if it ever happens.)

Boston drivers seem to get impatient with unsure and wishy-washy drivers; the code seems to suggest that the person needing to turn or merge will be assertive enough to ask. Boston drivers appear to be confident and self-assured.

I’ll add some amendments to this and other rules that I discover, and as usual, especially if you’re a Bostoner reading this, I’d love to hear your experiences about driving and drivers in Boston.

There are a lot of them, and not nearly as many highways and roads as in other cities, which leads to frequent traffic jams. But Boston drivers are not as bad as advertised.

Tonight marks our eleventh night in Boston. However, because of my job, I haven’t explored Boston all that much; I’m hoping that will change in the future and that I can share some of my exploits and discoveries on this blog. I do drive quite a bit around South Shore though; as I mentioned, I live in Quincy, and my job is in Brockton, so I drive a good twenty miles to and from work. My job requires me to travel around the Brockton region quite a bit as well.

So some of the first Boston rules come from observations I’ve made on Interstate-93, 95, and Highway 24.

I visited Boston in July to meet my new boss and apartment shop. Abigail and her husband Nate picked me up from the airport. During the next thirty minutes, there were times that I felt like I was riding a wooden roller coaster. At least once, I was jolted out of my upright seated position in the backseat from the impact of a bump/crater in the middle of the highway. My back was literally aching by the time we arrived in Waltham.

That’s nothing compared to what recently happened in Medford, where a 5 foot-by-3 foot pothole emerged on I-93 earlier this month, causing accidents and significant traffic delays. Days before that, a 12 foot-by-5 foot pothole terrorized traffic and construction workers.

South Shore isn’t much better. The roads in Quincy are actually pretty good, but the on-ramp that I take every morning to get on I-93 from Quincy is filled with potholes the size of rodents. Speed limits in most towns that I drive through range from 25-35. On the one hand, it’s obnoxious to have to slow down to that pace in Boston, especially when you have the time crunch of my job. (More on the psyche of the Boston driver, which I’m rapidly developing, in a future post.) On the other hand, taking some of these community roads at speeds over 35 mph puts your car at risk. I spent hundreds of dollars preparing my car for the 2,000 mile journey to the Northeast; I’d like to save money on car repairs if I can.

(In fairness, Massachusetts has over $4 billion allotted to reconstruct state highways, bridges, and pavements in the near future. You can read about some of these projects here. Surprisingly, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration rates many of Massachusetts’ highways as acceptable-good, with none rating poorly according to their standards. I’d hate to see what they define as “poor standards”.)

It’s not just the conditions of the roads. Lane demarcations are optional in some parts of roads. Katie and I drove to Waltham this weekend and noticed that a lot of the lane paint had faded, assuming there was paint there to begin with. There’s a stretch of I-93 that I drive through on the way home in which lanes have different widths for an extended length, only to randomly converge into semi-normal lanes; Nate and Abigail have mentioned similar instances in their part of Boston.

Sunday night, we took I-95/93 from Waltham around the South Shore back to Quincy. It was raining and foggy, so visibility was already marginal. Many drivers shone their brights to assist their vision; they had to because the interstates are poorly lit. Oddly, there are quite a few streetlamps erected along this stretch; the first one that was actually turned on was in South Quincy, 20 miles into our journey around the south side of Boston.

So rule #2, don’t be surprised if there are bumps in the road (literally) and other surprises when driving around Boston. The reputation of Boston’s road quality seems pretty accurate.

We made it to Boston late last Thursday night–me, my wife Katie, our friend Drew, our two cars, and a 24′ Budget truck. We overcame 2000 miles of bizarre weather and diverse terrain (I never want to drive a Budget truck up a mountain again), as well as the quirks of a rusty trailer that decided to give out in Nashville.

Friday afternoon, we unloaded the contents of our trailer into our apartment in Quincy. Excuse me…Quin-zee.

Quincy, MA was the home of the Adams political machine (namely, our second and sixth presidents) in the late 18th/early 19th century. Apparently, Abigail Adams’ grandfather, John Quincy, for whom the town is actually named, pronounced his surname with a zee instead of a harder cee. Downtown Boston’s famous shopping district, Quincy Market, which was named after politician and former Harvard president Josiah Quincy (as far as I can tell, no relation to the Adams family), has the same enunciation.

We discovered Rule #1 several ways. I asked several people, including my realtor and human resources department, about nicer neighborhoods in the southern part of Boston. (Or, as it’s called here, south of Boston. That’s another story.) Quincy was routinely mentioned; I thought it odd that each Bostonian I talked to enunciated Quincy with a zee.

Our friend Abigail blazed the trail from west Texas to Boston a few weeks before we did. They live in Waltham. Now, most words in the English language (and other western languages) are stressed on alternating syllables. (Or, with the word “syllable”, the first syllable is accented and the next two are not.) So, you’d think Abigail’s town would be pronounced WALL-thum, or WALL-tham, or some variation.

Abigail lives in WALL-THAM. Both syllables are stressed. Abigail was totally befuddled after her first scouting visit to the Northeast. So in some sense, Katie and I weren’t entirely shocked at the unusual enunciation of Quincy.

Supposedly, there was a phone scam in the town of Haverhill. You’d think it would be pronounced HAV-er-HILL or HAYV-er-HILL, or some variation. The people running the scam definitely thought so, and asked residents about their experience in the town of HAV-er-HILL. Too bad the town is pronounced HAY-vril. Enough residents recognized the phoniness and the scammers were caught.

The wonderful people of Worcester (WOOH-stuh) have provided an unofficial guide on pronouncing names in Boston. If you’re new to the area, make sure you research appropriate geographical enunciation.

My name is Jeremiah, and I’m new to the Boston area.

Actually, at this stage, I’m not in the area yet.

Currently, my wife and I live in a mid-size town in west Texas. There’s a lot that we love about our town–especially the people at our church and at our university. But the job market down here is rather poor; whereas I’m not in the 9.7 (or whatever number is floating around these days) percent of unemployed Americans, I don’t exactly have full-time work. I work at a church part-time and I provide therapy for a non-profit in town. Both opportunities have imminent expiration dates, so I decided to look elsewhere around the nation for work.

Last week, I got hired by a mental health agency in Boston that provides cost-reduced family therapy to a diversity of clientele. We excitedly accepted, but are quickly realizing how rapidly our world is going to change.

So we’re moving to Boston. Beantown. The City on a Hill. The moving truck leaves in a month from yesterday so I can start working in the middle of the month. Saturday, we began the first stages of packing our house and are in the process of beginning our goodbyes with employers and other friends. I’ve only talked on the phone with my boss and a few co-workers; I couldn’t distinguish any of them from Adam. (Or Eve, in this case, as everyone I’ve talked to at my new job so far is female.) We don’t have a place to stay; I’m flying up next weekend to apartment shop and meet new co-workers. One of the things I’m using this blog for is to document our practical and emotional transition to the Northeast.

Did I mention that my wife and I are Texans?

Okay, picture your stereotypical Texan.

I hope and pray that we don’t fit many of those characteristics. For example, I vote Democrat and my wife is more or less politico-avoidant. We drive four-door sedans, not diesel-fueled trucks; I will not think about buying a car unless it gets over 30 mpg in the city. We’re eco-conscious; in fact, this afternoon, I picked up our produce from a local CSA (community-supported agriculture). Neither of us have twangy accents; I’ve tried to eliminate phrases like “fixin’ to” from my vocabulary. But we’re still Texans, not Bostonians. We love our high school football and warm weather. We take our wide streets and neighborly openness for granted. We’ve bought in to the idea that everything is bigger (and thus better) in Texas.

Maybe the culture shock will hit harder than I thought.

So I want to use this blog to make a list of the rules (spoken and unspoken) that we discover about Boston. Most of the entries from here out will be formatted: “Rule #1: _____” and then stories about how we determined said rules. I’ll try to avoid stereotypes, and apologize if anything that I write hits too close to home. Hopefully, some of your comments will help us get more acquainted with the Boston area.

We have four other friends that will be moving from our town in Texas to Boston over the next few months as well; I’ll introduce them in future blog posts and share some of what they discover on this blog.

Thanks for checking in!

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