Life in the Slow Lane
Rick Bragg shares his thoughts on Atlanta traffic
You need to understand that I love Atlanta. I love sitting over a plate of steamed cabbage and fried chicken at Mary Mac's Tea Room. I love dodging the little old ladies on Cheshire Bridge Road when they peel out of the parking lot at The Colonnade Restaurant after "Ladies Lunch." I love the Falcons, though they break my heart. And I love the Braves, though, as one Atlanta writer liked to say, they "stomped that sucker flat." I even lived here awhile, close enough to the Krispy Kreme bakery to wake up smelling sugar.
What a great city this will be when they finally invent the flying car.
I was on the interstate in Atlanta and moving at the speed of warm lead. No. Wait…. I only thought I was moving. It was just a hamburger sack blowing in the other direction. It was a trick of the mind, the way people dying of thirst in the desert imagine an oasis. The sack tumbled on by, and I sighed. Sighing is what you do in Atlanta, when you've exhausted your repertoire of curses and are too forlorn to do any more than rend your hair and gnash your teeth.
To pass the time, I made up songs in my head. (Sung to the tune of "Losing My Religion" by R.E.M.)
That's me in the Toyota
That's me in the left lane
Losing my religion
Sung to the tune of "Midnight Train to Georgia" by Gladys Knight & the Pips)
Oh, I'm not leavin'
In this breakdown lane in Georgia
But I couldn't think of anything that rhymed with Georgia, so I went back to reading the bumper sticker on the car in front of me for the thousandth time.
HUNKER DOWN, HAIRY DAWGS
Then I thought: What if I die here? What if that is the last thing I ever read in my life?
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I lived here for about three years. People ask me if I liked it, and I say that I did. It must be a good town if you're willing to put up with this.
Now, for the third year in a row, Atlanta is number one. It's home to the most miserably congested bottleneck in America, the convergence of I-285 and I-85, known as Spaghetti Junction.
The "peak average speed" is 24.7 miles per hour, slower than some tractors. The city is also home to the fourth-worst intersection, the convergence of I-285 and I-75. All in all, 7 of the nation's 100 worst bottlenecks are here, according to the American Transportation Research Institute, which came to those findings by timing trucks.
I don't know if it was purely miles per hour or if blood pressure was also used as a measurement. I think this city has sent more truck drivers to the cardiologist than Little Debbie.
I decided to reward myself. When the HAIRY DAWG in front of me finally moved again, I headed downtown to The Varsity and got myself two chili dogs with onions, twisted into a little ball of wax paper; an order of onion rings; and a very large Varsity Orange drink. Then I just enjoyed being alive.
I heard some man quoted about how life is about the journey, not the destination. This guy obviously never had to commute from Marietta.