I’ve been living here since 1985. For me, Atlanta was the Land of Opportunity. Originally from Germany, living in Columbia, South Carolina wasn’t helping my career, so I thought Atlanta would give me the opportunity to expand my horizon.
I was right in one sense of the word, but with every good thing comes bad.
Nothing is perfect.
While Atlanta gave me good things such as broader minds, more job and homeowner opportunities, it also gave me crowds, traffic and bad attitudes. I tell people regularly “Atlanta makes us all freaks!”.
In particular, the speed thing has really affected me. I have never seen a place in such a hurry! Everyone is hustling and bustling, madly rushing around like scattering ants. And with that exasperation comes the bad attitudes. Everyone is in such a hurry we have lost that kinder, gentler respect for each other. Someone gets behind the wheel and is late for a meeting. Guess what? In Atlanta? You’re only going to be even later, at least that’s what I’ve found. After over 25 years of trying to adapt, to get quicker, to beat the crowds, I’ve actually found a niche that seems to work for me. Maybe it’ll work for you!
Mentally, I’ve learned to hate simple pleasures such as grocery shopping, buying gas, even going for my daily walk because of the traffic, mentalities behind the wheel and the speeds involved, so, it took a while, but I started doing things with a different attitude. They may not work for you, but really and truly, it is all a mental thing. Get it through your head first, and the rest will fall into place.
Interstate driving: Very scary for some. I’ve seen it, and I’ve heard it. If it scares you, then you should avoid it at all costs. If you can get where you’re going another way, do it, but if you have to get on, pay attention to some very basic rules and you’ll do just fine.
- On the four-lane sections, large trucks are not allowed in the left two lanes, so stay in the two left lanes. On three or two lanes, I ride in the center or right lane. Faster traffic passes on the left.
- Don’t feel like you have to speed just because everyone else is. I find the speed limit, or four miles over, not only keeps me sane, but lowers my gas consumption, and that’s more money in my pocket!
- Bumper to bumper traffic? No problem. Stay in your lane and move along. If someone puts on a signal to change in front of you, give ‘em that space, it won’t make anything worse for you, and hopefully, if you pay it forward, at some point, when you need to change lanes, someone will let you in, too.
- Semis are huge, very heavy metal boxes on wheels. The thought of driving one of those here in Atlanta is a nightmare to me. They’re about three times the length of a car (if not more), can’t maneuver or stop as easily as a car, and have very low and poor visibility. Give them the space to change lanes. The majority of truck drivers I’ve seen here adhere very well to the driving rules. They signal. We need to pay attention to that and allow them to change lanes. If you see one trying to change into your lane, and there’s room, flash your lights to let him know he can safely change into your lane. They will usually reward you by flashing theirs to you.
- Most importantly, remember this: those trucks are bringing you all the possessions you just can’t live without, don’t you want them to get there on time?
I’m often amused when I see a car darting in and out of traffic, changing lanes, running red lights, etc. Then I pull up to a stop light, right next to him. I look over and you can see the exasperation on his face. Traffic is frustrating here, but it’s all about attitude. If we could only all get behind the wheel and just calmly drive where ever it is we’re going. Some of the other things I do:
- Wait out high traffic times. I try to avoid driving between 7 a.m. and
9:30 am, and again between 4 p.m. to 6:30 pm. This doesn’t work for everyone.
- I grocery shop around 9:30 a.m. The Farmer’s Market? 9 a.m. on Sunday.
- When I get behind the wheel, I try to have an immediate personality change. I try to make a point to be happy and calm. I put on happy music and smile a lot. I’ve noticed when I can actually do that, and I drive the speed limit, not only do I seem to move through traffic quicker, but I don’t seem to run into as many angry drivers. Could it be?
- I ride MARTA at every opportunity. There is absolutely nothing better than the train here in Atlanta. It really keeps me sane. Did you know the MARTA police force is the largest in the city? And they show up when you least expect it. Once, at the Five Points Station, a strange-acting man pushed a woman who was trying to get on the train. Within seconds (yes, seconds) two police officers showed up on either side of him and whisked him away.
- Lines in the store. As I’ve said, I try not to be in a hurry when I leave home. This mentality has saved me more than you know. I’ve been cut in line, had doors slammed in my face, and given dirty looks by people in more of a hurry than me. So what do I do? For the guy in line behind me,
breathing down my neck, I step aside and say “Hey! You seem to be in more of a hurry than me, why don’t you go first?” If I have a buggy full of items, and the lady behind me has three or four items in her basket, I step aside and motion for her to go ahead of me. When I hold the door for someone and they’re too busy or hurried to thank me, I smile and say “You’re welcome!” I have found each and every time I share courtesy and respect to others, their attitude instantly changes.
A little story I love to share: Years ago, I was in line at the grocery store. The man in front of me seemed hurried and upset. His line of food on the belt was obviously for his family and children. When he saw his total bill, he opened his wallet, pulled out some money and then started searching in his pockets. He started scanning his purchases, and it became obvious he was going to start putting food back. I have to tell you, as a mother, I could see the food was for the two boys in his buggy. I called out to the cashier and asked how much he needed, and then threw a $20 bill on the belt (I really didn’t have it to spend, but those kids were not going without food if I could help it!).
The guy turned and looked at me and his eyes got big. I smiled. The cashier was stuttering too. The man felt as though he needed to stay and bag my groceries and I laughed and said “Honey, go home to your family and enjoy a good meal together!”. I can’t even tell you how good that made me feel. Aren’t we supposed to take care of each other?
It’s SO easy to frown at someone, become frustrated, curse and yell or get mad.
It takes a much bigger person to smile and say “Oh, I’m sorry, did I get in your way?”. Now I’m not perfect, like anyone else, and I often slip back into old ways, but, at the end of the day, I try to look back and ask myself “Did I help someone smile today?” and also “Was I a kinder, gentler person today?”
It’s a work in progress. Let’s return Atlanta to the City of Love instead of the City of Speed!