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Playing the Odds in Austin

In her quest to keep things weird in Austin, Texas, a traveler takes a gamble.

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By Yasmin Ahmad

Travel Writer

18 Aug 2020 - 5 Minute Read

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I stared at the two orange tickets in my hand, given to me by a stranger, each with a number written on it in green – 11 and 52. I had taken a gamble, and I was starting to believe that it wasn’t going to pay off.

Ed and I had come to Austin for a quick getaway, and he was indulging my need to find a quirky hidden gem in the city. I had convinced him to follow me to Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, where we were sitting on plastic lawn chairs in the parking lot, just a few feet from a dumpster and porta-potty, slowly losing our will to live in Austin’s sweltering heat. He wasn’t saying much; I couldn't tell if he was annoyed at being pulled into another of my questionable exploits, or if he was silently suffering because he’d overindulged at Torchy’s Tacos.

I looked around, glancing back over to the group of people bustling around a chicken coop in the middle of the parking lot. They were emitting cries of excitement, followed by huge sighs of disappointment. I had walked away from them just moments before, the excitement and boredom combining to take their toll.

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“Let’s just go,” I said. “There’s no chance it’s going to be me.” I suggested we head to the State Capitol to check off at least one  ‘must-see’. But Ed insisted we wait. He settled back into his chair, refusing to admit his food coma was responsible for keeping us in place, melting in the heat.

Minutes later, a much louder roar erupted from the direction of the chicken coop. Ed had fallen asleep, so I headed back to the crowd and jostled my way to the front. My eyes zoomed in on the floor of the coop, scanning the square grid of numbers for 11 and 52.

Then I spotted it – a huge piece of chicken poop, dumped right between the two ones that made up the number 11.

I edged my way in a little closer, trying to make eye contact with the chicken I had built my hopes and dreams upon – at the going rate of $5 per ticket.

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A Ginny’s employee reached in and lovingly scooped up the chicken, shouting over the crowd, “Number 11 is the winner!”

“That’s me”, I said quietly. Then, cheering loudly with game-show-contestant levels of enthusiasm, “I have number 11!”

“Congrats hon, you won.”

I was in a state of thrilled disbelief (as was Ed, once awake). Going off the beaten path had paid off. Armed with the $300 prize money and the honorable title, Winner of Chicken Shit Bingo, we headed out to feast at Austin’s infamous food trucks, ready to slip into our next food coma.


This story was a shortlisted finalist in the World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship 2018.

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Yasmin attributes her love of travel to growing up in a Finnish and Pakistani family in Toronto, where exposure to many different cultures left her wanting to learn more

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