The move to Atlanta, Georgia (pop = 5.7 million) in 2006 from Cincinnati, Ohio (pop = 2.1 million.) in 2006 wasn’t easy. While not as drastic as, say, moving to Los Angeles, California (pop = 18.5 million) from South Point, Ohio (pop = 4000), it was still a shock.
AGMA’s always lived in smaller, friendlier cities. Cities that are easy to navigate. Cities where, for the most part, drivers are courteous. Cities that have defined, relatively short rush hours.
My first six months in Atlanta were traumatic. This was before Google Maps. And I didn’t have a GPS unit. I couldn’t seem to naviagate the roads, the heavy traffic was intimidating and people drove batsh*t crazy.
I ended up only going out in my car between the hours of 10 AM and 2 PM.
This did not make for a seamless, joyful integration into my new home city.
Then one day, I got a “hobby job”.
Hobby Job (HJ) = an interesting, fun job with fun people that pays minimum wage. You’d better have somebody else paying the rent…
My HJ forced me out onto the Atlanta roads before 10 AM and after 2 PM.
You remember that old saying, “I you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”…. Well – AGMA joined them. I got brave and bold.
Just in time to have my car totaled by another driver. On the interstate. At 50 mph.
Other than some bruising and minor whiplash, I was fine. Bluie, my first Prius, wasn’t.
A lesser AGMA would have thrown in the towel, curled up in a fetal position and gone back to the 10 AM – 2PM protocol. But no. I got my new Prius, Goldie (are you seeing the theme…?) and got right back into the saddle. Or the bucket seat.
For better or worse, I was becoming an Atlanta driver.
Fast forward to 2016. I go out driving any damn time I want. Speed limits and traffic signals…merely suggestions. Going the wrong way? Just do a U-turn in the middle of the road. Zipping in and out of lanes to jockey for a better position in traffic. And don’t even think of trying to cut in on me…
Survival of the fittest. That’s the tagline of Atlanta driving.
I don’t really notice how “assertive” my driving has gotten until I’m back in one of those smaller cities I used to live in. I notice that people are actually driving the speed limit. And people don’t consider the berm as an extra lane. And there is a lot less honking.
People living in those cities complain about their traffic. I just laugh at them. “Traffic?? You don’t know what real traffic is….”
Tora, Tora, Tora!
But every now and then, something happens to remind AGMA she needs to dial it down a notch. Or two. Or three.
Earlier this week, I got behind an “elderly” driver. I realize that the term “elderly “ is relative. And 18 year old would consider me, AGMA, an elderly driver. Ouch.
My 32 year old son calls them Geezers. I think that’s a better term. A Geezer can be any age although the vast majority of Geezers are up in years.
This guy I was behind was the classic Geezer. Driving a big old Chrysler 15 mph on a 30 mph road. Most people go 40 mph on that road. Coming to a complete stop before making a turn. Seriously?? Slowing down for a stop sign 100 feet before the sign. Keep in mind he’s already going 15 mph. And then actually coming to a complete stop.
“It’s a good thing I’m not in a hurry or I’d lay on my horn.” I huffed.
He stopped – very, very slowly – at a stop sign that dead ended our road onto a very busy road. Right turn only. There was an opening and I saw him slowly pulling out. I turned to look at traffic and saw there was another opening. I pressed the accelerator.
You know what’s coming.
Yup – AGMA hit his bumper. Turns out he decided not to turn and stopped again.
He was obviously flustered by my bumping him. He turn onto the road right in front of a big truck who laid on his horn but thankfully pulled into the other lane. I was holding my breath as I watched.
Mr. Geezer pulled into the closest parking lot and got out to inspect his bumper. I pulled in, expecting to be yelled at (as is the Atlanta way), and possibly give him my insurance information.
AGMA didn’t expect what actually happened…
He smiled a big ol’ sweet smile at me and said, “Don’t worry. There’s no damage. This dent here was already there.” He was charming and lovely and didn’t try to scam me for his already damaged car.
I was stunned and humbled.
AGMA apologized profusely. He assured me he has bumped other people’s bumpers in the past so he understands. No doubt. I asked if he was okay. He said yes.
Then he thanked me for stopping.
I assured him that I always stopped when I hit somebody. Which very rarely happens I added quickly.
He smiled that sweet,lovely smile at me and said., “I think what you’re trying to say is that you always try to do the right thing.”
Gulp. AGMA was ashamed for labeling him.
We said our goodbyes and as he pulled out onto the busy road, he cut off a car. They laid on their horn.
I said a prayer of safety for him.
And a prayer for me to be a bit more tolerant. Maybe a lot more tolerant.
And for AGMA to know when it is time to give up the car keys before Geezerdom is in full force.
I hear golf carts are loads of fun!