I live in Atlanta. When I say that, the first things people remark on are the humidity and the traffic. Some people mention Scarlett O’Hara but they are saccharin women who read Harlequin romances and can be disregarded.
It is hard to describe the humidity. Suffice to say that the city should provide towel service to everyone. I can whine about, I mean discuss this subject some other time.
Goofing on the terrible driving habits of a given area is an old comedic vehicle (intended). I have never been afraid to re-air old concepts but this diatribe is different. The stereotype is correct, traffic in Atlanta sucks so much that it makes a black hole look like a blow dryer.
The major reason for this suckiness is the roads. They were constructed by simply concreting over wagon trails, footpaths, and logging roads. Thus they are way too small to handle the traffic of this highly mobile city of five million people. Meeting the travelling public’s needs with those goat paths like trying to get a fat man into a leotard.
If you get behind an old lady or a truck full of illegal lawn care personnel that were riding burros just last week, they can back traffic up for miles. I am campaigning for the police to provide heavy-lift helicopters to swoop in and remove these obstructions to normal blood pressure.
If you know the geography here, you know the ATL is very hilly and curvy. Since there was no terrain modification when the roads were built, a map of the city looks like a crowd of epileptic worms having an orgy. There are no bypasses, short cuts or reasonable alternative routes. If you decide to “just cut over to the next street”,you could end up having to fill your gas tank twice before you get back on route.
To make things even more fun, there are sudden lane designation changes. This lane ends, that one becomes left turn only, now you have to merge. There is usually about 50 feet of warning because the hills and curves obscure the signs. Drivers are terrified of having to make a wrong turn and ending up on an exploratory journey that would make Buzz Aldrin cringe. People are forced to make, um, non-standard lane changes. Most of the time, the traffic in the proper lane is backed up so those caught in the trap of misdirection have to rely on blinkers and the kindness of strangers. Should there be no kind strangers, the have to play a slow motion version of Chicken and force their way over. With all the cars canted at weird angles, a busy intersection can bear a striking resemblance to a train wreck.
The traffic is something Atlantans are used to. At least those who manage to stay out of jail or the asylum. If one thinks about it, there are benefits.
Road rage is unheard of. Why bother? Even if you do get angry, you can’t get away so there is a high likelihood that you will get your ass kicked. Car chases are also rare. It’s hardly a “chase” if you are only moving five miles per hour. If you want to get away, steal some Nikes instead of a Porsche.
It is amazing how much you can get done while you are sitting in traffic or waiting at one of the interminable traffic lights. For example, I would never get this blog written. I can also do my email, tweet and take care of various items of personal grooming.
I have heard a lot of grandiose plans: burying freeways, improving rail service, and dynamic traffic flow control. Face it, until they invent the teleporter for real, driving in Atlanta is going to be a test of nerves. Complaining about it will do no good. I may as will bitch about the humidity.