Mary Jo tells me that, ever since I stopped driving downtown every day, I’m not quite as — how does she put this? — “grumpy.”
All I have to say to that is, you spend an hour or an hour and a half (or more!) in Atlanta traffic every day. You fight through rush hour. You spend 20 minutes on the way home to go a lousy half-mile in surface street traffic just to get a chance to merge onto a seven-lane (one way!) road where letting somebody in is a sign of impotence. Then you fight through the traffic coming off and going onto the perimeter, just to squeeze onto the “Alpharetta Autobahn” where things are often either dead-stopped or dead-scary crowded and fast.
And everywhere — everywhere — idiot drivers.
- The maniacs who change lanes every time they blink.
- The dopes who rush to get by you, just to veer back in front of you and instantly hit their brakes.
- The texters. Yes, even on the Autobahn.
- The dumbasses without brake lights.
- The tailgaters who expect you to move over — no matter what lane you’re in — so they can move ahead of you … and slam on their brakes.
- The constant brake-riders.
- The shockingly unaware.
Grumpy? Yeah. Traffic in a big city like Atlanta is no joke. You have to be on at all times, always ready for that lugnut in the next lane yapping on the phone while he (or she) slides over the lines. Driving in Atlanta is not fun.
Every single person on the road, of course, thinks that he or she is a good driver. A safe driver. I’m the same. The difference might be that at least I admit I’m an aggressive, take-no-crap good, safe driver.
You can be both aggressive and safe.
A few years ago, I took one of my colleagues home after work one night and, by the time we fought our way to the northern suburbs, poor mostly mild-mannered Jeff was a much paler shade of white. He hasn’t ridden with me since. But the point is, he got home safely. No near misses. No slammed-on brakes. No needlessly dangerous maneuvers.
I showed Jeff all my moves on our ride home. (You have to have moves to drive in Atlanta traffic.) I showed him you can turn right from the second-to-right lane to get from North Avenue onto Spring Street, but you have to avoid the numbskulls in the very right lane who don’t know you’re turning and try to go wide there.
I showed him you can pass a lot of cars by staying in the right lane on the Connector once you merge, instead of immediately trying to get over like so many wannabe Andrettis do.
I reminded him there are two exits lanes to get onto 400; you don’t have to get in the right lane two miles early. I showed him you can get past a lot of cars by staying right on 400 in Buckhead.
I showed him how you can take an off ramp for the perimeter, then jump back on an entrance to 400 and bypass a ton of cars, without holding anyone up or cutting anyone off. (That is, perhaps, legally questionable, but there are always — always — drivers who are not paying attention and have a six-car gap in front of them. I take what they give me. I don’t hold anyone up. The guy with the six-car gap is holding them up.)
Yes, I’ll speed at times. Often, in fact. But that’s mostly to get out of dangerous traffic. And yes, I will change lanes when I have to. Again, to avoid tight packs of cars traveling at dangerously high speeds.
They’re my moves. But again: They’re all good, safe moves.
I live by a simple creed when I get behind the wheel.
- I don’t inconvenience other drivers or put others in any kind of danger.
- I get pissed off when somebody does that to me. Which means — Mary Jo’s right — that I’m pissed off a lot.
Little makes me grumpier traffic-wise, though, than the inconsiderate, oblivious, head-up-the-tailpipe pinhead who fights his (or her) way into the left lane like it’s a fricking birthright, then camps out there, completely ignoring the growing train of cars behind (see the video above).
Hey, dipshit (I’ve screamed a few times in my life): Doesn’t matter if you’re “doing the speed limit.” Doesn’t matter if you’re doing 10 or 15 or 100 mph above it.
The left lane is for passing, oil for brains. Use it to pass. And then get out of it.
It’s another rule of my road.