The First 24

Posted on Friday, Feb 17, 2017

The first 24 hours in a new city are always the hardest, especially when the new city is Austin and you are moving from College Station.  I spent my first 24 hours in Austin learning how to operate in the city the hard way.

I arrived in Austin excited for this upcoming opportunity to intern at the capitol during the legislative session.  I thought that nothing could possibly go wrong. While thinking about some of the issues I wanted to learn more about during the session, I learned my first lesson of living in Austin: make sure that you are not turning the wrong way down a one-way street.  In downtown Austin, one-way streets and construction blocking one side of the avenue are common place as opposed to College Station, where there are virtually none. Nothing is more terrifying than turning the wrong way down a one-way street.

After very quickly u-turning and finding my bearings, I was able to locate my apartment and, with the help of one of my fellow interns, move my belongings into my room. It was not until a couple hours later that I realized I had no cooking or eating utensils (necessary items when trying to imbibe sustenance). I was stuck eating out the entire first week of living in Austin. This may not sound so bad when you consider that Austin is a "foodie" town, however it can pack a punch to your wallet very quickly when you have to pay for a meal three times a day. My second lesson in Austin, enjoy the food but make sure you do not break the bank doing so.

The next morning went off without a hitch. I met my Chief of Staff and Legislative Director and they oriented me around the office and the Capitol. I filled out the necessary paperwork to get my ID and then took an awful picture for my State ID, as is to be expected. The whole day went smoothly up until I went to talk to our Legislative Director about some of the tasks he wanted me to start working on. As we were talking, I bumped up against the bookshelf next to me and suddenly, all the pictures came falling off the shelves. Pictures of county courthouses from the 1950s, a personalized license plate and other gifts given to the Senator for his service to the state hit the ground causing a loud ruckus. Luckily, nothing broke but I knew from then on to be careful around the furniture.

After cleaning up my mess, it was time to leave. As I walked out to my car parked out in the lot, I remembered that my Chief of Staff said that he was not entirely confident that the number he gave me was correct. I laughed it off at the time, thinking he was just pulling my leg because I am the new intern, but when I walked up to my car, I noticed a pink slip underneath my windshield wiper. Less than 24 hours of being in Austin, I have already committed a non-moving violation for illegally parking. This was not exactly the best result after a day dedicated to civil service.  But I took my ticket like a responsible citizen and went to head home, thinking from now on- trust but verify whatever my Chief tells me.

After 24 hours of mishaps and learning the hard way how life in Austin and the capitol is different from Aggieland, I was ready to go home and watch some Netflix.  However, my key fob did not work when I arrived at the front door. Remembering that I accidentally left the back door on the balcony unlocked, I started out on a trek across the pool area and three of my neighbors' balconies, six floors off the ground. After climbing over these four three-foot walls, I was finally home but I learned how easy it was to break into my own apartment.

After learning all five of these lessons on my first day, Austin has become a much more manageable beast. My ticket was handled by DPS and I did not have to pay the fee.  My key fob was fixed so I need a little less acrobatics to enter my apartment. I finally can find my way around the city and I bought some kitchen utensils but more importantly I found after work receptions with free food. It may have taken some time to get my sea legs, but living in Austin certainly has its perks.

Stephen Shuchart
Office of State Senator Robert Nichols
Austin, Texas