Before arriving to Texas, I was told I would awake each morning to find myself drenched in sweat due to the extreme combination of high temperatures and humidity. I added San Antonio to a weather application on my cell phone. I planned ahead. I monitored these claims in hopes of discovering people’s warnings to be exaggerations. After noticing the temperature seldom fell below 75 degrees with a 70-90% humidity level during several severe lightning storms in the middle of the night, I was convinced of the extreme humidity and heat I was soon to encounter.
I prepared for a dramatic shift in weather upon landing. There I was, a beach-going, sun-tanning, heat-loving Californian, packing a separate cooler outfit in my carry-on. I wore sandals and had fastened my hair up in a bun. Even before going to luggage claim I changed into my shorts and a light tank top. As I walked towards the exit I was met with heavy moist air. I could feel my temperature rise as I lugged all of my suitcases and bags out into the streets in search of a taxi. The further I trudged along; I felt more and more like I was cooking in a microwave on the baked potato pre-setting.
I suddenly became very aware of how despite my thorough planning I did not account for the lack of taxi service or help with my bags. I was hot, exhausted, did not know where I was, and I was alone. Before this trip I had only flown alone once before, and never with more than one suitcase on wheels. I wondered why I had not made plans to meet up on my arrival day with Ms. Losey, the UTHSCSA project coordinator who had been guiding me in travel and housing arrangements. Perhaps she would have been able to pick me up from the airport even; if only I had asked. But it was too late for that. I continued down the walkway until I finally spotted a line for taxi-service, and the man guiding travelers helped me load into a new Toyota Prius taxi. The air conditioning could not have been blowing hard enough that entire 30-minute drive to my apartment complex.
The apartment complex I’m staying at is on the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA) campus. An extension of the UT system, UTSA has about 29,000 students. Their mascot is the road runner, which is indigenous to this part of south Texas. My apartments are not particularly close to where I’m working, however, they are conveniently located along the way Ms. Losey drives to work. This makes picking me up just a quick pit stop. The taxi dropped me off at what we thought was the leasing office. Apparently the correct office would be found after a fairly long walk across the scorching pavement in the sweltering heat on the opposite side of the complex. Office staff managed to locate some keys and assign me to an apartment. I was so excited. And would you believe it? My home for the next eleven weeks was now back on the far edge of the opposite side of the entire complex. Thankfully, a brave lady from one of the offices volunteered to help me carry my things to my new apartment.
I got settled as best I could and ventured back out into the heat, this time to walk to the nearest bus stop. I rode the bus nervously, worrying I had missed my stop, and hoping I had not taken the wrong bus or misread the schedule and routes. Minutes ticked by slowly making my 20-minute ride feel like an hour-long voyage. I was glad the bus had air conditioning. I walked to a nearby store enjoying carrying my seemingly weightless purse as opposed to the immense weight of my luggage earlier. This shopping trip should be a breeze. There would be no difficulties snagging front row parking or navigating an overloaded shopping cart through vehicle and pedestrian traffic to my trunk. I gathered basic items keeping in mind I would need to haul my purchases back home on foot and bus.
My route to return home encompassed some surprises. For one, buses did not run every 5, 10, or even 15 minutes. Bus 603 ran every hour. And although it passed my apartments along its path toward the stores in town, in the reversed direction going back home, it did not. 603 brought me to a halting stop nearly 2-miles from my apartments before turning into another bus route traveling a different direction away from my home. Of all the times I had regretted having to commute hundreds of miles, hours and hours, from city to city, or that I spent trapped sitting in traffic only to go a few short miles up the road, I had never missed having a car as much as I did in that moment.
When I finally arrived home, I immediately contacted Ms. Losey asking if she would be willing to help me get to the store the next day to finish shopping. While weather was not particularly helpful in this excursion, I had clearly underestimated the task of traveling into town, shopping, and returning home on public transit. I made my bed, called it a day and went to sleep. Tomorrow would be a new day; a day with a car, an air conditioned car, and more importantly another person, a local resident who knew the area, who was willing to accompany me, to help me navigate this foreign land.