Summer Break is Upon Us

Ah, summer break. That magical time between early June and mid-August when everyone, not just students and teachers, gets some sort of reprieve in life. I haven’t been a student in several years, and I’m not a teacher, but there is still something special about summer break. And it’s not just the “what a long, strange trip it’s been,” “have a great summer,” and “I signed your crack,” hollow platitudes that end up in yearbooks. No, it’s something much larger. Something more akin to the Force. Let’s discuss.

Traffic

Texas DPS reminds drivers to put phones away in school zones | KXAN Austin

First of all, let’s talk traffic. I live in one of the ten biggest cities in the United States, and morning commutes are the worst. Really, the time of year doesn’t matter all that much, because with over 1.3 million people, Dallas always has a lot going on. But when summer break hits, two fantastic things happen: school zones are no more, and fewer minivans are on the road at 7:00 a.m.

Both of those things bode well for morning commutes. No school zones, of course, means that, for about ten or so weeks, there will be no 20-mile-an-hour crawling on surface streets, which means more consistent movement, more green lights made, and less starting and stopping. This means that the disappearance of school zones not only helps with commute time, but also with the environment. Starting and stopping a lot means more fossil fuels burned, which means bigger holes in the atmosphere, which means we get a little bit closer to being in a reality that will look like a Michael Bay apocalypse movie.

And fewer minivans means fewer accidents, probably. Look, I have a very rigid code when I drive. I am always on the defensive, I try to avoid being in the far right lane unless I’m planning on turning right, I try to avoid being the far left lane unless I’m passing someone, and I don’t get behind minivans. Why? Because minivans are terrible. And I feel bad because I know it’s mostly moms and dads just trying to shuttle kids to school, but it ends up being a driver distracted by rambunctious kids, which means less paying attention, which means delays when lights turn green or when lanes end and merge, etc. Seriously. I’m not saying everyone should really try and goose it off the line when they’re at a red light, but minivans are consistently good for a solid 3- or 4-second delay in accelerating, which slows everyone down, creates more traffic, causes one fewer car to make the light, and results in, you guessed it, more inefficient use of fossil fuels.

So the moral of the story is, if you want to save the planet, don’t get behind minivans and extend summer break, probably.

Weather

And of course we can’t have the traffic report without kicking it over to weather. June, July, and August are hot months in Texas. Temperatures regularly top 100°F, winds blowing from the south cause trees to have a semi-permanent lean, humidity is atrocious on the coast, dust storms hit the panhandle, and mosquitos take city parks hostage. But at the same time, the sun is out, the golf courses are manicured, and the beer never seems colder.

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There’s something so satisfying about waking up on a weekend or a weekday you have off of work, turning on some tunes, and just enjoying the summer. I love doing yardwork and getting tan. I love playing golf and drinking beer. I love going to concerts and outdoor bars. I love barbecuing and watching baseball. Summer is great. The humidity can be avoided by avoiding Houston, which is a good idea anyhow. The dust storms can be avoided by avoiding trips to the panhandle in July, which is also a decent idea in general. The mosquitos can be avoided with some DEET.

I mean, what’s better than filling a cooler, rolling the windows down, turning the radio up, and driving into the prettiest parts of the state for camping or golf or lake trips or whatever? Not much. And it sure as hell beats ten straight days below freezing like we had this winter. The point is that the summer weather is great for doing things outside. I grew up in it, so the extreme heat doesn’t bother me too much unless I have some sort of formal occasion to go to where I have to wear a coat in the heat. But other than that I love the hot and the sun.

People

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And, of course, the summer is normally great for people. Teacher, each of whom should be in consideration for some sort of civic award for putting up with other people’s kids, get to take a break. Seriously, man. I considered becoming a teacher but realized that I don’t have the patience to handle the buffoonery kids go for. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’d ever get violent or anything, but I think it would be hard not to yell and cuss and call parents idiots for just sitting their kid in front of a screen for every waking hour they aren’t at school. All that is to say that teachers have an incredibly difficult job for which they are generally underpaid and it’s nice to know that over the summers teachers can sleep in and day drink as much as they want to.

But the people goodness doesn’t end there. Summertime normally means backyard barbecues, eating on patios, going to concerts and other outdoor events, and generally getting a chance to mingle. And it looks like we might actually be back to doing that kind of stuff this summer. I’ve missed it all, especially concerts, so much. I’m vaccinated, and all I want is to go to some bar in Deep Ellum with live music and a patio. I want to drink some Texas beer and listen to someone with an acoustic guitar sing about anything that comes to mind.

And this summer will probably be pretty hectic. Some people are going to have eighteen months of pent-up stupidity they need to get out, which will likely mean an early spike in things like driving under the influence, bar fights, possibly even public intoxication chargers, and general assholery. The great Blaze Fyre and I were talking just this morning about how fans at sporting events have been so awful lately, what with someone dumping popcorn on Russell Westbrook, throwing a water bottle at Kyrie Irving, and some idiot running onto the court to show off very average jumping ability by slapping an NBA backboard. I chalked it up to people having large reserves of impulsive, idiotic behavior and finally being able to let that loose in public again, but who knows.

Morals & Lessons

To recap, here’s why summer break is great even if you’re not a student or a teacher. For one thing, traffic gets better, even if just a little, because school zones are not active and distracted minivan drivers aren’t clogging the roads during morning rush hour. Improved weather means sun tans, outdoor activities, and general pleasantness all around. And people get a change to unwind a little because of both of those things.

The things to watch out for are the occasional random school zone that stays active (presumably for summer school). Be sure to keep some SPF 30 and mosquito spray around if you plan on being outdoors for any extended amount of time. Also, with people having been stuck at home the past year and a half, there are bound to be some foolish antics and possibly even anger-fueled shenanigans at first. But that’s okay, as long as you remember to physically distance yourself from that kind of thing once you see it happening. If we’ve managed to get mostly through Covid without any huge issues, surely we can press on through some drunk bros arguing at a bar.

So thank you, teachers, and let’s make this a great redemption summer!

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