Monday, November 26, 2007

The downtown connector is no place for scaredy cats

I’ve always felt a particular pain for folks driving through Atlanta for that yearly visit to Granny’s house at Thanksgiving time. This city is full of psychotic drivers on even the least traffic heavy days, and when Thanksgiving rolls around a large chunk of the population flies back home to whatever city they are originally from, leaving the remainders with a less congested road and the muscle memory for driving like a loon. The things these travellers must think became painfully obvious on Saturday night as a family of Floridians tried to navigate the Brookwood interchange while it was plugged from an accident and the Battle of Georgia was being waged nearby on the Georgia Tech campus. I had a front row seat to it.

After the Thanksgiving visit with my family I came back to town since I had to work on Friday. All weekend I had the opportunity to see out of state plates and Georgia tags bearing the county names for places far flung to the four corners of the state. Seeing those folks drive on Atlanta roads and the Interstate roadways was painful and eye opening, as always. The old saying is “country come to town” and I can get away with saying it because of my hillbilly roots.

They are easy to spot. Just look for the center lanes and there they are, puttering along at the speed limit or just below the limit and as you pass you can look over and see the absolute fear in their eyes, both hands tightly gripping the steering wheel. Why they stick to the center lanes was a mystery to me for years until I finally figured it out. Normally the center lanes here are a DMZ of sorts. It’s the no-man’s land where one will normally see wrecks originate. The slower drivers should be in the far right lane but I think these folks are scared that right lane will become a turn only lane and they won’t be able to merge back into a left lane, so they would be forced to take the off ramp in some unfamiliar area. I wonder if they are terrified thinking that waiting at the end of every off ramp is a pack of 2 dozen crazed city folk, high on crack or God knows what; just waiting to pick off the easy prey.

So, on they drive, in the middle lane with folks passing them at speeds higher than the pace car for the Indy 500. Everyone blasts by them and sometimes they will cut right in front of them as a way of telling them to get the hell out of the middle lane. The looks on their faces as they near the downtown connector is one of panic and pure primal fear and I got to see one first hand on Saturday night.

I was up in the Marietta area late in the day and decided to come home via 75 and then on to 85 north at the downtown connector. I had the Georgia v. Georgia Tech game on the radio and as I neared the city the traffic update signs warned of the 4 left lanes being blocked by an accident at 10th St. I continued on and thought it would just give me more time to enjoy the game on the radio. Just below Northside Drive the traffic turned into a parking lot and we crept up to the north side of the Brookwood split.

At the exit ramp for 85 north some poor soul was completely lost and freaked by the mass of humanity as he tried to go from the HOV lane to the main body of traffic. I suppose he thought the HOV would take him and his family off course from I-75. When Georgia scored as Southerland ran it in near the end of the 3rd quarter, Bulldog Nation was well represented in the traffic jam and all of us were easy to spot. We began honking our horns and flashing our lights, hands and arms flailing and pumping in the air. The poor bastard with his family in the minivan in front of us was freaked beyond limit. He had no idea what had transpired, the family was convinced the display was anger being pointed at them for blocking two lanes of traffic.

I’m not talking about run of the mill freaked in this case, it was obvious that the whole scenario was freaking out the kids in the backseat too because they were bawling like they had just woke up on Christmas morning with huge lumps of coal to greet them and no toys. It was hitching sobs time from the backseat of “young uns” and Dad was sawing at the wheel, looking like he was going to blow a gasket with everyone honking and flashing their lights at him…or so he thought. The wife was in full-blown panic mode and after years of reading the lips of baseball players I could see she was mouthing the words, “Oh dear Jesus! Roy! They’re gonna kill us all!” Little did Dad and Mom and the tykes know that the lights and horns were for a touchdown that had just happened only a mile or so away in the spacious bowl that is Bobby Dodd Stadium.

It was easy to feel bad for them for having such a terrifying moment on their way back home to someplace in Florida. It was also quite funny to see a carload of Floridians so petrified at the experience. I will guarantee you that someplace down in Florida; a family who owns a white Dodge minivan complete with the LCD screen for the kiddos in the backseat is telling everyone about the nightmare that is Atlanta. “Those people in Atlanta are out of their damned minds! We almost got killed in a traffic jam and ALL of them were flashing their lights at us, honking their horns and waving their arms. I wouldn’t live in that dump for all the money in the world!”

Helpful advice for those travelling through Atlanta for vacation, business or moving: Stay to the right, and above all, don’t panic.


idyllopus said...

Funny as hell. Great description.

The CT blogger said...

Many thanks, idyllopus!

Fantastic website you have there and I thoroughly enjoyed your work.