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Test Driving My Nerves

By Joe Rector

Sometimes in life, the things a person likes the least pop up. It’s then that they have to try to handle the situation as well as possible.

The other day I had the opportunity (?) to drive to Atlanta. I was participating in an event sponsored by the company with whom I work. My original understanding was that a group of us would hop in a van and make the ride. However, upon arriving at work a little before 6:00 a.m., I learned I’d be driving to the big city. To say I was underwhelmed at the prospects of driving to Atlanta is understating the case.

I left Knoxville with no directions. Someone yelled the place was located on Airport Blvd. Then another told me to follow her and I’d be all right. I jumped in my car, turned it on, and discovered I’d have to fill the tank. By the time I finished doing that, all the other cars were long gone.  I should have recognized this as the first sign of a bad trip.

My outdated Garmin led me into Maryville, but then it sent me toward I-75 instead of Highway 411, and by the time I realized that, I’d gone too far, so that became my route. The trip from Alcoa Highway to Atlanta was simple. I aimed the car toward Chattanooga and then took a left where the Interstate divides, and that was all there was to it.

That’s true until I approached the outskirts of Atlanta. I called another driver who suggested I go I-75/85. Okay, that’s no problem, I thought. A couple of things stand out about Atlanta traffic. First, there’s a lot of it. I arrived after 9:00 a.m., but the flow was still heavy. A second thing is that a driver must manage six lanes of traffic. In most cases, hanging in the middle one is the best idea, but not always. Third, the speed limit in Atlanta is merely for show. Vehicles scream down the lanes at clips somewhere close to that of a jet rumbling down a runway for takeoff. Last, drivers there will let cars merge…if they do it at the same break-neck speed.

I saw a sign that indicated I needed to be in the far left lane, and although I tried to move over a couple of lanes, cars didn’t let me into the final one, and I wound up going north instead of south. I exited, drove around a couple of minutes, and then re-entered the driving war zone.

Before much longer, I arrived at the exit. That’s when more problems arrived. I’d been told to exit right, drive to a light and take another right, and then take another right to the final destination. The problem was I never saw a sign with the name of the business. I drove up three different right turns. One took me to the Atlanta International Airport. The best driving I did all day turned out to be navigating through the airport until I found an exit.

I stopped at a convenience store where the windows were covered with bars and asked about the location. The proprietor handed me a slip of paper and, in broken English, told me to follow directions on it. I again hopped into the car and drove according to the directions, only to discover that the destination was a rental lot, not a service center that I needed to find.

Discouraged, I drove back to the place where I turned before. I drove to the end of a road and arrived at a gate. The person there told me that my destination was the first building on that road. I asked how anyone would ever find it, and she smiled before telling me that few first-timers did.

I arrived last in my group. My mood was sourer than a month-old jug of milk, and for a while I responded to others with curt answers that sometimes were laced with profanities. However, before long, the good people with whom I work were so kind and sympathetic that I came out of my funk.

After this latest fiasco, I’m finally ready, if not necessarily willing, to tackle future trips to Atlanta. I know where I’m going now. Still, I’d rather travel to other places where the traffic is lighter and the places are easier to find. Thank goodness for kind, helpful co-workers who get me where I’m going. Otherwise, I might wind up on the Atlantic coastline.

 

 

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