I’ve Got a Bone to Pick With Drivers in Atlanta

First of all, let me say that I am far from a friendly and considerate driver myself. In fact, a person very close to me suggested that the best way to manage one’s fear (because that’s the emotion most feel while riding in the car with me) is to let the back of the passenger seat all the way back until you are almost supine, and then pretend as though you are riding in an ambulance, perhaps after having been in a terrifyingly bad accident. So I do not mean to suggest in any way that I am somehow superior to other drivers, although clearly I actually am.

Atlanta is well-known as a city of maniac drivers. I-285, our ring road, or beltway, which we simply refer to as “The Perimeter” is not for the faint of heart, to say the least. It is very difficult for the GSP (Georgia State Patrol) to monitor the speed of drivers there, because there really is not a good place for them to “camp out” and set up the radar. They would have to use the emergency lane to do it, and they would be putting their own lives at risk, so they just don’t bother. Therefore the minimum acceptable speed on The Perimeter is 65. And that’s if you want to stay all the over in the right lane. As you move left across the lanes, you are expected to step it up from 3-5 mph on a per-lane basis, such that by the time you get to the far left lane, you are going essentially as fast as your automobile is capable of traveling.

God forbid that you would ever violate this protocol and force someone to go around you on the right. When that happens, you probably don’t get the finger, but you do get the icy “Stare of Doom”. Don’t ignore the Stare of Doom if you receive it. Take it like a big boy or girl, and move immediately to your right one or perhaps even two lanes.

Atlanta is not built on a “grid system” as most major metros were built. We don’t have streets and avenues, such that it’s easy to navigate around by simply checking the street or avenue number and adjusting accordingly (let’s just forget a minute about modern GPS devices). No, Atlanta is built in a manner such that if you do not know where you’re going, you are completely screwed. There is no logic whatsoever as to how to navigate through the city. You simply know where you’re going or be prepared to be tailgated to the distance of about 3″ behind your rear bumper, and if the street widens out to four lanes, you will once again be passed and given the Stare of Doom.

I have lived here about 32 years, and while I am not a native Atlantan, I know where the hell I am going. Add to that my ambulance driving style of driving, and it’s clear that Job and I are never mentioned in the same tome, much less the same sentence. What does that mean? It means I don’t suffer fools gladly, as my father used to say, not because he didn’t, but because he noticed the character fault in others. Let’s just say I need to work on being more patient.

So before the age of the cellphone, things were bad enough here. Then came the cellphone, followed by the total ubiquity of the cellphone, followed by texting, and so on. In Atlanta, due to the large number of vehicles on both the highways and surface roads, this is a problem. What inevitably happens is that someone begins to driiiiiiifffffttttt into your lane just a little. When that happens, I usually respond with what we all know as the “polite horn toot”. That is the toot in which I make the barest minimum of a horn sound, in order to “alert” the offender that he/she is drifting due to more attention being paid to the cellphone than the road. If that toot is ignored, and the offender drifts into my lane a second time, they may or may not get the “extended blast” of the horn. There may be a second phase of a sterner but still polite-ISH toot, but perhaps not. Depends on how the day has been going.

So how does this person generally respond? Occasionally, it is with an “I’m so sorry” look, as the offender has realized that their driving error has potentially caused an accident, but more times than not, it gets you the Stare of Doom. Now let’s be clear. If I get the Stare of Doom from the offender, the stare that they get back from me would melt a diamond, and may also be accompanied by a gesticulation. Don’t act as though YOUR act was not the offensive one, buddy. Take your medicine or be prepared for the come-backer.

My mother used to tell me that “you can’t legislate the behavior of other people, son.” She may have been right, but I am sure trying, one toot or blast at a time.

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