For a long time, I’ve told anyone who would listen I stay out of Atlanta every chance I get. After all, I’m a country boy and Atlanta is a country-size city – if that country is China.
I’ve lived in only one large city during my life and even then I was never sure whether I was returning to my own apartment at night or one on the other side of town. Too much territory, too many people. I was a little fish in a big pond and Atlanta is a much bigger pond.
I’ve been visiting Atlanta doctors a lot recently, however, and although its rush hour is still a horror film called A Nightmare on Interstate 285, I’m learning Atlanta actually has its up sides.
For instance, there are a zillion cars in the capital city, but their drivers seem more courteous than many of those I’ve encountered around here. If I need to move into the next lane, I signal and drivers actually slow up to allow me to pull in. Try that in Augusta and I might be met with disdain.
I’m not saying Atlanta doesn’t have its demolition derby contestants. I looked into my rear-view mirror one day and saw that the man behind me was, at highway speed, flossing his teeth with both hands, leaving neither on the steering wheel.
Was he months overdue for dental hygiene and late going to the dentist, or had he just eaten a three-piece box of fried chicken at 65 mph and felt the need to clean up before heading to the office? Whatever the case, I sped up to get away from the “look, Ma, no hands!” driver so I wouldn’t get entangled in his floss when he crashed.
He was just careless; the day I returned from Atlanta, I met a local driver who was actually vindictive. I signaled to change lanes at an intersection where traffic had stopped, so I was proceeding slowly. Far back down the road, I saw a black Lexus SUV approaching fast.
The driver was an older – that is to say, my age – woman who would have passed as a matronly matron had she not been gesturing angrily at me with a certain finger from each hand, thus ruining any chance of being taken seriously in high society. Rude is rude, no matter how nice your hair is.
It’s not just Atlanta traffic that I misjudged. To a person, I met nothing but pleasant folks in the big city. Doctors, nurses, technicians, store cashiers, hotel clerks, waitresses. Volunteers at the hospital courteously wheeled us around the grounds in golf carts as though we had known them all our lives.
Many hailed from other countries – Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Nigeria, Ethiopia – but spoke warmly as though they were children of the Old South. People in hallways and elevators, and on the street offered directions whenever I looked lost, which was often.
All these people gave the city a good name. Atlanta, I’m sorry I misjudged you all those years.
Reach Glynn Moore at (706) 823-3419