5A problems

IMG_1922The wifi isn’t working.

The cleaners put too much starch in my shirt.

The lawn care service canceled again.

In my neighborhood, we call them 5A problems. Exit 5A off of Georgia 400 leads you to my humble enclave, where you’ll typically find more blessings than legitimate reasons to complain. It’s not like we’re immune to real problems. There is grief, job loss, anxiety, and the like. But in general, my neighbors and I are pretty comfortable in well-manicured suburbia. Often, we have to invent reasons to complain.

The driveway is cracked.

The maid forgot to take out the trash.

My shoestring broke.

At least we have shoestrings. And driveways. And lawns.

Guatemala is a hardscrabble country filled with sweat, determination, discouragement, unbridled poverty, and hope. Majestic volcanoes rise into the heavenly blue to provide a postcard image. You have to look closer, deep into the towering cornfields patrolled by chickens and stray dogs, to find the real Guatemala.

I discovered the essence of Guatemala on the first day of my visit, near the top of the San Pedro Volcano beside Lake Atitlan. I was feeling pretty good about my five mile climb that wasn’t as much about the distance as the altitude. The thin air of 9,000 feet had my lungs in a stranglehold. My leg muscles were screaming “no mas”, and I still had to hike down the volcano. I’d already started the process of patting myself on the back when I noticed two Guatemalan men calmly duplicating my effort with 50-pounds of firewood on their backs. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like congratulating myself. The biggest physical challenge I’d faced in decades was, to these guys, just another day in Guatemala.

The dog groomer canceled our appointment.

The cable is out again.

This traffic light stays red too long.

I met a family living in a home unworthy of being called a shack. It is nothing more than two rooms with flimsy wooden walls, a tin roof, and dirt floors. When it rains, and it does often in Guatemala, the floors turn to mud. The family matriarch, Tomasa, kneels in the dirt to create tapestries she sells at the local market. Her father-in-law murdered her husband during an argument about property, a crime that went unreported because Tomasa feared reprisals. Her five sons walk a half-mile along a narrow trail to get to their school bus (a retired Blue Bird bus manufactured in Georgia). The children don’t go to school every day. Sometimes, they go to work at a local market selling their mother’s wares. That includes Tomasa’s 8 and 11-year-old boys.

The bananas at Publix aren’t ripe enough.

The price of gasoline is absurd.

I can’t find the remote control.

More than half of Guatemala’s people living in poverty. It’s not due to lack of effort. The unemployment rate is less than 3%. Among the able-bodied men earning their keep is the 80ish-year-old I saw trying to lift himself off of a bench while burdened by a massive sack of avocados. The streets are teeming with street vendors aggressively offering crafts and baubles for a negotiated price. Only once did I encounter someone who extended an empty hand in hopes of receiving something for nothing.

I’m not writing this to claim the Guatemalan people work harder or deserve more than the rest of the world. There are people right here in Georgia, right here in metro-Atlanta, who deserve better for their efforts. And I’m not saying we should be ashamed of the trappings that come with our own success. But we were blessed to be born in the land of opportunity. We could just as easily have emerged in a “developing” country without the advantages and freedoms of America. It’s only when we open our eyes beyond our comfortable surroundings that we gain perspective. Since returning from Guatemala, I’ve found it difficult to complain about my 5A problems.

The garbage disposal is too loud.

The color doesn’t seem right on the wide-screen TV.

The announcers on this football game are biased.

By the way, I was in Guatemala to help build a new home for Tomasa and her boys. When finished, it will be two concrete block rooms with a finished floor. There will be no television, no Netflix, no remote control. She’ll continue to cook over an open wood fire that she will build each day. A hole in the ground will still serve as the family toilet. Still, Tomasa is so grateful for the upgrade that she gifted me and other volunteers with a basket of apples. It’s all she had to give other than the hugs and smiles that were all the reward any of us needed.

I am blessed to live in a wonderful country with a loving family, to have a roof over my head, a good job, great friends, and a God who will never abandon me. No, my life is not perfect, but there will always be someone who works more and has less, and there will always be someone who works less and has more.

Where does complaining lead you?

Well, it leads you to exit 5A, where you can grouse that your daughter keeps a messy room, or you can be grateful that she works hard and makes good grades. You can get upset that the cleaners ruined a perfectly good shirt, or be happy that you’ve got a closet full of adequate replacements. You can get worked up over the oddball sound coming from the engine of your Volvo, or rejoice in the friends who are willing to give you a ride whenever and wherever you need to go.

I could complain about my failing body that ached for days after my hike to the top of that volcano, or I can celebrate God’s glorious world and the revelations of a country thousands of miles from exit 5A.

For years, I’ve been carrying my petty 5A problems like a 50-pound stack of cordwood strapped to my back.

Thanks to the lessons of Guatemala, I’m learning not to make a volcano out of a molehill.

 

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Welcome to the jungle

bridge collapseWelcome back, spring breakers!! Hope you had a great vacation.

To be brutally honest, we didn’t miss you.

Ok, that’s not completely true. Of course we missed you. It’s just that a lot happened while you were away, and we’ve been settling into a whole new way of life here in metro Atlanta. Quite honestly, and please don’t take this the wrong way, but your return throws a gigantic congested wrinkle on the situation. So, unless I can somehow convince you to spend another ten weeks on the beach, here’s a few things that you must know:

Your typical drive to work is history. Finished. Toast. Time to try something new. I’m talking mainly to anyone who is accustomed to driving into midtown or downtown. While you were on vacation, the rest of us have been searching for the best route around the I-85 bridge collapse. Truthfully, there is no best route. Piedmont is slammed. Ditto Sidney Marcus Boulevard. I-285 is experiencing a 40% increase in traffic. It’s worse than that on Cheshire Bridge Road, and that’s with you away. And the Buford Spring Connector? Well, let me tell you about the poor Buford Spring Connector. It is the most direct route past the missing sections of I-85, and it is stressed to the max. There is one lane open southbound. One lane is not going to handle the volume that used to travel on a massive interstate. Get out your map. Dial up Waze. Find another way.

Think about ditching your car for awhile. Seriously. I know that metro commuters are attached to their cars like mud to a truck tire, but life here has changed. There are actually some local teachers who plan to bike to work. You heard me. So many people have turned to MARTA, that the parking lots north of town are bulging more than grandpa’s waistline after Thanksgiving dinner. Now is the time to connect with some of your co-workers and discuss carpooling. Even better, talk to the boss about working from home. Believe me, if it wasn’t my job to PURPOSELY get caught in this mess, I would gladly spend a day working in my pajamas.

If you insist on driving, start now looking for routes that steer you away from the bridge collapse, and reset your alarm clock. The Georgia Department of Transportation has run models that indicate your commute into downtown or midtown is going to take you 25-30% longer. So, if you’re used to an hour drive from Alpharetta, add another 15-18 minutes of exhaust and talk radio. Those of you accustomed to leaving the house at 6:30 might want to try 6 a.m. And from what I saw last week while you were away, the morning rush hour is going to last past noon, so leaving later probably isn’t a viable solution. I suspect the morning and evening rush hour is going to join forces to create a new KAOS. You do remember KAOS, right? The evil organization from Get Smart? Remember? Maxwell Smart? Agent 99? KAOS? No? Nevermind.

Be patient. Be kind. Be respectful. No matter who you are or where you’re going, you’re journey is no more important than that of the people around you. This is not the time to make up your own rules. If you encounter a jammed intersection, wait until it clears and there’s room for you on the other side. When you see a crowded turn lane, don’t be shocked when your efforts to zip to the front of the line are met with stern rebuke. And if you’re one of those patient drivers who encounters the smug and the entitled, consider offering some forgiveness and a little space. I know, I know, allowing them to cut in line will look like you’re offering approval for their bad behavior, but your clever hand gestures will have no effect on them. Let them in for sake of the poor souls stuck behind them. After all, it’s only one car length. It will delay your trip less than a second.

Here’s hoping I can follow my own advice.

Anyway, welcome home. Hope you’re tan, rested, and ready to face the challenges we’ve endured for the past week. Our problem is now your problem. If you’re one of the many whose vacation was disrupted by flight cancellations and delays, you’re about to learn the true meaning of “grounded”. There are no travel agents to book you a new commute into town. This is all on you. Study up. Plan a new route, a different way of commuting, or wake up a little earlier. Download some of your favorite music, or maybe an audio book. Might I suggest you avoid titles like, A Bridge Too Far, or, On The Road, or, The Odyssey.

I’ll lean on the poetic words of the artful Jimmy Buffett.

Come Monday, it will be alright.

 

The Boston gloat

patriotsfalconsnfl_september2013_646For a moment there, I was really angry.

My brain was a keg of gunpowder, while the words I saw printed in the Boston Globe appeared as a lit match.

Fortunately, I’ve been talked out of my fiery pique by a most unusual source.

There I was, still dizzy with excitement over the Atlanta Falcons’ historic win in the final game at the Georgia Dome. A team once considered irrelevant was steamrolling to the Super Bowl, football’s biggest stage. A town once so hapless that Sports Illustrated called us “Loserville” was one step from the ultimate in football triumph. Falcons fans, so maligned over the the last fifty years, would be mocked no more.

Then comes Dan Shaughnessy to lower his zipper and rain on our parade.

Mr. Shaughnessy, whose coif looks more like a labradoodle rescue than a hair style, writes for the Boston Globe. In his column of January 23, he offered pity to me and anyone else silly enough to invest our hearts and souls in the Atlanta Falcons. That’s right. He pities us. He opined that it is beneath his hometown New England Patriots to play the Falcons in the Super Bowl because, well, playing Atlanta is boring. We have no sports history. We have no passion for our professional sports teams. It would be more fitting for the Patriots to play a team seeped in football lore, like the Packers or Giants. He mentioned Boston’s “embarrassment of riches” when it comes to sports titles. In Mr. Shaughnessy’s curly gray head, Boston is Henry the Eighth, and we are his headless brides.

By the way, why are they the New England Patriots? We aren’t the Southeastern Falcons. I digress.

There are a few things Mr. Shaughnessy doesn’t understand.

He seemed flummoxed that on a weekend when the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics were facing off in the NBA playoffs, the state was focused on the University of Georgia’s spring football game. College football is king here, and throughout the south. That is a fact. For whatever reason, southerners identify more with their college sports teams than the athletes who are paid. I don’t think we need to be ashamed of that. After all, the Georgia Bulldogs alone have won 29 national championships in a variety of sports. That’s something to crow about.

And our passion does bleed over to professional sports.

He concludes that our “apathy” over our professional sports teams derives from our lack of success. While it’s true that we hardcore Atlanta devotees are far outnumbered by our friends who’ve migrated here from other great cities, we are hardly apathetic. In fact, it’s the lack of championships that makes us viciously hungry. We are a wolf chained for decades to a tree, our nose less than an inch from a juicy steak. Perhaps, Mr. Shaughnessy, you watched our stunning, decisive victory over the storied Packers on your cell phone with no volume. It didn’t give you a very good view of the sold out Georgia Dome, which was an atomic bomb of enthusiasm.

My furor over Shaughnessy’s column cooled considerably when a few friends living New England reached out to assure me the Boston Globe scribe does not speak for all Patriot fans. One conceded that Atlanta is “due for a championship”, while another says the Patriot faithful “doesn’t disrespect the Falcons, and clearly the two best teams are in the Super Bowl.”

So, when Shaughnessy uses the word “we” while claiming that Patriot Fans “feel nothing” about a game with the Falcons, he must be referring to himself and his kinky white locks.

Look, I have nothing against Boston, and I most certainly feel no anger toward the fans of perhaps the most successful football franchise in history. The Patriots and their fans have my upmost respect. Boston is an amazing town, filled with history, and can now take pride in the fact that it helped produce one of professional football’s best quarterbacks. For it was on the campus of Boston College that Matty Ice honed his skills, preparing for his days as an Atlanta Falcon.

Thank you, Boston, for giving us Matt Ryan, the man who just might make Dan Shaughnessy eat his words.

 

The tears of a fanatic

110512 falcons CC32I wept.

I know. Big boys don’t cry, especially over a football game. It’s ridiculous. It wasn’t a babbling gusher or anything, but I made sure to hide the swollen eyes and quivering lip from my wife. I was a little surprised myself by the unexpected display of emotion. It seems I was simply overwhelmed by a moment of pure joy.

I’m one of those people who gets thoroughly attached to his sports teams and the athletes who play for them. It’s a bit bizarre, but I can still name the entire starting lineup from the 2008 Georgia Bulldog baseball team that made it to the national championship game. I learn their names, their hometowns, their shirt size, their favorite brand of cereal, and their high school grade point average. I need to know if they use waxed or unwaxed dental floss. Their fortunes are my own. If they win on Saturday, I arrive at work on Monday on a cloud. If they lose, I feel like I’ve been docked a week’s pay.

As a fan of Atlanta’s sports teams, I would be living in a tent if they actually withheld a paycheck with each loss.

There have been many seasons when the City Too Busy to Hate has fielded teams too distracted to win. Inept owners and terrible luck became their signature. Brett Favre, one of pro football’s greatest quarterbacks, started his career with the Falcons. He was a complete bust until he left Atlanta. Nick Esasky was an All-Star third baseman with the Reds and Red Sox. He arrived in Atlanta with a bad case of vertigo, and never played a game. The city has had two hockey teams, only to lose them both. For most of my life, the city of my birth has been a punchline for the sporting world.

Oh, how I’ve hungered for Atlanta to have the last laugh.

There have been so many opportunities to bail and adopt other teams. I won’t do it. With every losing season, I dig in even deeper. I’m deeply invested in a losing stock, but I refuse to sell. Atlanta is a town filled with millions who come from somewhere else. They bring their banners with them. Packers. Steelers. Yankees. They root for teams that have hoisted championship trophies time and time again. They tempt me to abandon my roots. I am stubbornly convinced that I will be richly rewarded for decades of suffering.

Atlanta does have one title. One. It happened in 1995. The Braves, once perennial losers, climbed the baseball ladder so quickly it made us all dizzy. They made it to one World Series, and lost, then another, and lost. The third time was, indeed, the charm. Then came another World Series loss, and another, and just like that, the magic disappeared.

Now comes these Atlanta Falcons.

I started rooting for the Falcons in 1980, the year they steamrolled into the playoffs only to lose an unlosable game to the Dallas Cowboys. I stayed with them as they hired and fired the hapless Marion Campbell, a man they’d hired and fired once before. I traveled to Miami to witness the Falcons’ first appearance in the Super Bowl, and felt the elation ebb away with the arrest of a key defensive back the night before the game. It was as if fate had punched a hole in our hot air balloon. The team, and the experience, fell flat.

This time, it’s different. It feels different.

This time, there’s Matty Ice, who warms my heart. Quarterback Matt Ryan goes about his business with fearless calm, never bothering to draw attention to himself. There’s Julio Jones, who doesn’t let injury stop him as he stiff-arms larger defenders to the ground. It’s a team that refused to doubt after early season losses. They’re playing with a grit that leads you to believe they understand this town’s hunger. Matt Ryan was 5-years-old when the Falcons finished their 9th losing season in 10 years, one of  the lowest moments for a franchise full of lows. Ryan hasn’t lived with our frustration, but he’s fighting to cure it.

So, excuse the fat, wet bubble that appeared in my eye as the clock ticked down toward perhaps the biggest win in Falcons history. I’m a sap, a stupid sports sap who fell in love with the Dirty Birds nearly four decades ago. They’ve broken my heart so many times, it would make a stirring romance novel. For me and thousands of other long suffering fans, this season is like a thrilling apology. It’s the misbehaving pet that ran away years ago, only to return with a tail-wagging leap into your lap. It’s the girlfriend who broke up with you at the prom, then calls to profess her undying love.

I pine for all of my sports team. Falcons, Braves, Bulldogs, Hawks. I know that it’s dumb to invest so much emotion in the performance of athletes I’ve never met. It’s not like I have a say in their wins or losses. It’s not like they’re thinking about my mental well being when they trot onto the field. And yet, I can’t help myself. It’s really beyond explanation.

For me, the Super Bowl will be played at a most inconvenient hour. My alarm will ring at 2 a.m, Monday morning. If I stay up to watch the game, I will get, at the most, four hours sleep. More than likely, I won’t sleep at all, especially if the Falcons win. If that happens, I won’t want to sleep for a month. After all, there will be no more need for dreams.

And I will cry. Oh, yes, I will most certainly cry.

The TK76 factor

tk76The times, they are a changin’.

On August 23, 1982, I walked into the newsroom of WRBL-TV, and entered the world of professional journalism. With one hand, the news director gave me a hearty pat on the back, and with the other, he handed me a camera as big as an armored car. With an RCA TK76 digging into my bony shoulder and sweat gushing from every pore, I shot my first news story.

The TK76 is now an extra-large part of television history. During my 34 years in the business, we’ve switched from hefty ¾” tape, to Beta, to digital video tape, to digital cards. Broadcast cameras, once large enough to break you in two, are now the size of the handheld version you cart to Disney World. The equipment has gotten smaller as our responsibilities have grown. We’re now asked to feed not just a newscast or two, but our website and several social media platforms. We can do live shots with our phones.

Change in television news is constant and inevitable. Sometimes, it’s downright sad.

I am lucky enough to have worked with some of Atlanta’s television legends. John Pruitt is a cherished mentor. There was Guy Sharpe, Chuck Moore, Johnny Beckman, Joe Washington, Randy Waters, and Bruce Erion. I once thought of them as irreplaceable. They’ve all been replaced.

The look of my television station is changing again by way of a mass retirement. Donna Lowry. Keith Whitney. Kevin Rowson. They are among a group of vastly experienced journalists who are saying good-bye to WXIA-TV. If you know these people only through their on-screen work, trust me, you’re missing out. They are much more than a one minute blip on the tube. These are loving parents, good friends, hard workers. They care about you. They do. If you happened upon them at the grocery store or a dinner party, you would like them. You would understand immediately why they’ve lasted so long in a challenging business.

None of these people got into television news for the money or the notoriety. Young journalists motivated by wealth and fame don’t last. Donna, Keith, Kevin, photographers Mike Zakel, Steve Flood, and Ron Nakfoor, they lasted decades in this business because of much more. They all got into it because of a hunger to tell good stories, a passion to find the truth, and their ability to relate to people. They all spent time working in snow, or with the sting of a hurricane against their cheek, or with the miserable feel of a TK76 on their shoulder. And they kept coming back. Because they love it.

Good journalism doesn’t come from a can of hairspray. Passion always outweighs discomfort.

Times change. People retire. I’ve witnessed a lot of departures during my 27-years with WXIA. This time, we’re talking about people who are close to my age.

Their exit brings reflection.

I wear a lot of gray now, but I don’t really notice because my vision isn’t so sharp. I don’t bounce back from long work days the way I once did. The passion is still there, but the body is struggling to keep pace.

More than once, I’ve contemplated the end of my broadcast career. It will happen one of several ways. I could leave on my own terms, when the body and the bank account agree there’s a nice comfortable chair waiting for me at the beach. It may require encouragement from bosses who feel I’ve outlived my usefulness. There are a few of my snarkier friends who may tell you that time has already arrived. I’m looking at you, Randy Waters.

I remember a conversation many years ago with affable weatherman Guy Sharpe. If Atlanta television had a Mt. Rushmore, Guy’s face would be on it. He was nearing the end of his television career, and he knew it. He accepted Father Time’s command with grace, refusing to grow bitter toward a business that often demands younger, faster, and better looking.

For now, I still have some good years left in me, and I get to work with journalism’s next generation. My desk is surrounded with energetic young reporters eager to dig, to work, to inform. They are not burdened with ego. They are the Donna Lowry, Kevin Rowson, and Keith Whitney of thirty years ago.

And they never had to work with that blasted TK76.

Right now, my heart is as heavy as that burdensome camera my boss dropped on my shoulder so long ago. Our newsroom is about to experience a void. We’re losing some classy people. Solid journalists. Treasured companions.

So long, friends. We will miss you.

Take a hike

IMG_5126We ascended a rocky path toward a brilliant winter sky. Below us, the Chattahoochee River groused loudly about the previous night’s rain that quickened its pace and muddied its attitude. Beneath two layers, my skin tingled with the onset of perspiration. We happily filled our lungs with pure Georgia air. A dog barked, arguing with the roar of traffic along I-285.

I-285?

Woodland hikes have become a thrilling addition to my weekend commutes. My wife and I are committed to finding a new trail to explore as often as possible. Amazing to me is our ability to find peaceful rustic paths within earshot of conflicting concrete.

Our latest jaunt took us to the Rottenwood Creek Trail, which is sniffing distance from Highway 41 and Cumberland Boulevard. We followed the Chattahoochee River until a clearing took us upward and seemingly light years from the city. For a moment, we were in the north Georgia mountains, eons from worry and responsibility. Of course, my wife owns a quick pace, and our ascension eventually provided us a distant view of a towering urban neighborhood. A fast right turn, and we were back in the comforting arms of Georgia’s idyllic beauty.

IMG_5125When I say we, I’m talking about me, my wife, and our tongue-wagging companion Dexter. Note to the federal government: our black and white mutt now owns a large portion of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Dexter’s favorite hike involves one back leg. His prominent scent should be enough to stake his claim.

There are dozens of inviting trails in the metro-Atlanta area that will willingly transform you toward an Appalachian experience. In recent weeks, we’ve tried the Sweetwater Creek trails west of town, the Gold Branch Trail in Cobb County, and the East Palisades Trail inside the perimeter. We could stroll with a different calming view every day of the year, and never venture more than a half-hour from the exhausting gridlock of Atlanta.

These long walks are vital as I continue to heal from knee surgery. It has become a welcome exercise, a comforting diversion, a convenient getaway. I’m blessed to have a wife who enjoys these off-beat treks as much as I do. We seem to lose ourselves in conversation, healthy movement, and the soothing environment.

And Dexter? Well, every pine, every shrub, every rock is a potential rest stop. He strains the leash to the maximum as he charges every hill. Then, he stops to mark and relieve. I don’t know how he does it. I counted today. During a four mile walk, that dog accomplished nineteen pit stops. I’m not exaggerating. Sometimes a dribble, occasionally a stream, our panting pet was most certainly void of fluids by the end of our venture. Whatever makes you happy, Dex.

If you’re not into the rustic side of Georgia, I suggest you try the Beltline. It is growing into Atlanta’s most appreciated gem. Paved for pedestrians or bikes, the Beltline provides a crowded tour of urban revitalization. You can whisk by nearly forgotten symbols of Atlanta history that have received an energetic transfusion. Be warned, if you take to the Beltline on a sunny weekend, you’re going to face sneaker-to-sneaker traffic.

I think it’s pretty awesome that a city so devoted to the automobile is learning to walk.

Give it a try.

Just remember. You might stroll through property owned by Dexter.

He won’t mind.

 

The city too busy to yield

Psycho-On-Board-2012_001Imagine you’re in line at the grocery store, your cart brimming with the latest in finely cured luncheon meats, the unhealthiest of salty snacks, canned delicacies labeled as seafaring chicken, noodles of every shape and size, and at least seven hundred dollars worth of foodstuff that will hopefully feed your family of three for a week. You look at your watch and realize you’ve got fifteen minutes before you have to retrieve your daughter from her Origami on Horseback class at Chastain Park. The rather talkative woman ahead of you, dressed in a blue polyester pantsuit and high-top sneakers, has lost her coupon for gourmet cat food. The clock is ticking loudly against your eardrum. Next year, your daughter will be restricted to bridge classes from the next door neighbor.

Suddenly, a creature with enough back hair to blow dry approaches from the left. He wedges his cart between your Sun Chips and your neighbor’s Converse.

“Excuse me,” you cry over the sound of detergent hitting the floor. “You’re cutting in line.”

“I’m in a hurry,” he explains.

All you can do is stare at the long dark strands flowing from his earlobes and seeth.

No one would ever do that, right? Decorum dictates that you take your rightful place in line, no matter the hurry.

And yet…

Every day, I watch drivers, masked by their tinted windows, as they put courtesy in the backseat. Long lines don’t apply to them. They rush past the cue on I-285 as commuters wait to transition onto Georgia 400. With a blinker and a wave, they fold themselves into a gap the size of skinny jeans. Those who obey the rules register their complaint with a slam of the brakes and a honk of the horn. The next day, they think, “why not me?”

Impatience seems to beget a sense of entitlement. I see drivers zip around congestion by using the emergency lane. They know they don’t belong there. Somehow, their dinner is going to get colder faster than ours.

I see drivers doggedly determined to protect their rectangle of asphalt. Many times, I’ve signaled the need to move over a lane so I can safely make my exit. My efforts are greeted by drivers pretending to read a Cracker Barrel billboard. All they need to do is relinquish about fifteen feet. It will add less than a second to their trip. Instead, they spend that second extending a virtual middle finger.

Not all Atlanta drivers are rude. In fact, I would say the majority are willing to give an inch to make your commute better. It’s the presumptuous minority that can ruin your ride. It’s more than a lack of manners. It’s dangerous. There’s no telling how many fender benders have been caused by those aggressive line cutters. I’ve seen them block two lanes of dark rush hour traffic on I-285 rather than wait their turn in the Georgia 400 exit lane. In a situation like that, it’s real easy for metal to intertwine.

We all have places to go. We all want to get there quickly. Frankly, my desire to get home is no more important than your son’s little league game. As badly as I want to take my place on the couch, there is no way to construe my evening commute as an emergency. If you have to wait it out on Georgia 400, so do I. That guy over there flying by us in the lane reserved for ambulances and police officers has no special privilege. He just thinks he does.

It can cause tremendous stress. I don’t need stress. I’ve become that sap who let’s the churlish line cutter move right in front of me. I let him have his way. The alternative is to kiss the bumper in front of me so he doesn’t have a chance. Then, he’s stuck blocking a lane of travel. Others get mad. It leads to road rage. No, I smile. I give them my fifteen feet of blacktop, and delay my trip by a second. I know. It just encourages him to cut the line tomorrow. So be it. Maybe if I’m polite to him, he’ll give someone a car length tomorrow. Maybe. I doubt it, but maybe.

We live in Atlanta. Sweet tea. Southern gentility. Face to face, we’re as warm as a fresh dozen from Krispy Kreme. When we can hide behind the wheel, we become quite selfish. We should all drive like everyone on the road knows exactly who we are, like we’re going to be held accountable for our behavior.

Treat the other drivers like they’re all your grandma.

You wouldn’t cut grandma in the grocery line.

Would you?