American Suburbs Are a Horror Movie and We’re the Protagonists


This past year, my partner Dakota and I have been making an effort to walk to the nearest grocery store, rather than drive there. It’s a roughly four-mile round trip, and thus a little time consuming, but it’s very doable when it’s not a hundred degrees outside.* We both have desk jobs, so we enjoy the opportunity to get out, stretch our legs, and just chat without distraction.

(*A little aside here: We live in Austin, Texas, and for the duration of this article, I beg your forgiveness as I get loose with terminology. We live on the edge of Austin, so we are technically in a “city,” but our neighborhood is built much more like a suburb. Frankly, most of Austin, and Texas as a whole, is built like a suburb. So I am using the term “suburb” here as shorthand for the Suburban Development Pattern—and again, I beg your forgiveness as I do so.)

During Thanksgiving, Dakota went back to his hometown in east Texas and decided to stay with his family for a week, so I stayed behind to hold down the fort in Austin. That weekend, I had to pick up some groceries. The weather was beautiful—sunny but mild—and I really wanted to walk to the store.

When I considered making the trip alone, however, fear held me back and I ultimately took the car. Why? It was barely past noon; there’s no reason I should have felt afraid to go out alone in broad daylight, especially considering that Austin is hardly a dangerous city. Years ago, I’d explored Moscow with only a passable ability to speak Russian, and an even less passable idea of where I was going. If I could do that by myself, then surely I could walk to a store I’ve been to dozens of times, without hesitating?

Alas, I hesitated.

There were two reasons why. One was that there is no easy path to our grocery store (unless you’re in a car, of course): It’s a trek across multiple parking lots, involving cutting through a cheap hotel parking garage, a couple of unforgiving grassy areas, and several mad dashes across stroads. Frankly, it is not a safe trip when you’re walking or biking. Therefore, I like having someone with me, just in case (knock on wood) something happens and I need help.

You May Also Like