Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Atlanta Chronicles: Fact, Fiction, & Forwards

Over a year ago, St. Mac G forwarded me an email designed “for anyone who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, has ever lived in Atlanta, has ever visited Atlanta, ever plans to visit Atlanta, knows anyone who already lives in Atlanta, or knows anyone who has ever heard of Atlanta.” The email is intended as a humorous hyperbole of life in Georgia’s capital city. I always intended to post about it, to examine what the email gets right and where it goes wrong, but for some reason it never happened. Now that I’m less than two months from moving to Florida, I figured I’d better get all my Atlanta commentary out on the table, before it seems entirely irrelevant.

What follows, then, are just some of the Atlanta “facts” presented in the aforementioned forwarded email. After each “fact,” I will offer some commentary, hoping to dispel any unwarranted rumors while acknowledging those things that are spot on. Enjoy.

Atlanta is composed mostly of one-way streets. The only way to get out of downtown Atlanta is to turn around and start over when you reach Greenville, South Carolina.

I feel like the “one-way street phenomenon” is less pronounced in Atlanta than it is in other major cities I’ve visited. I’m actually surprised there aren’t more one-way streets here. The problem for me is that, in Atlanta, there are tons of streets with nearly identical names. What’s worse, the street names change without warning. In some cases, you have to make a hard right or hard left just to stick with the same street name, whereas if you drive straight through the intersection and keep going straight, you’re no longer on the same road. It’s all very counterintuitive. Interestingly, I was told that the apparently random change in any given street name is a relic of legalized racial segregation. In order to make it clear when you had crossed from a white neighborhood into a black neighborhood (or vice versa), the street would bear a new name.

All directions start with, "Go down Peachtree" and include the phrase, "When you see the Waffle House." Except in Cobb County, where all directions begin with, "Go to the Big Chicken."

I can’t vouch for Cobb County, but seeing as how I live on one of the many streets that contain the word “Peachtree,” it’s hard for me not to include “Peachtree” when giving someone directions. And yes, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I suspect there are more Waffle House restaurants in Atlanta than there are human beings.

Peachtree Street has no beginning and no end and is not to be confused with: Peachtree Circle Peachtree Place Peachtree Lane Peachtree Road Peachtree Parkway Peachtree Run Peachtree Terrace Peachtree Avenue Peachtree Commons Peachtree Battle Peachtree Corners New Peachtree Old Peachtree West Peachtree Peachtree-Dunwoody Peachtree-Chamblee Peachtree Industrial Boulevard

This barely scratches the surface. According to the Frommer’s Atlanta guide I perused shortly after moving to Georgia, Atlanta has over 100 streets with the word “Peachtree” in the name. I’m not kidding.

Atlantans only know their way to work and their way home. If you ask anyone for directions, they will always send you down Peachtree.

Very true. After two years of living here, my knowledge of how to get anywhere other than my school, the post office, the grocery store, church, and Papa John’s is next to nil.

Atlanta is the home of Coca-Cola. Coke's all they drink there, so don't ask for any other soft drink unless it's made by Coca-Cola.

More true than I’d like. I generally prefer Coke over Pepsi, but as anyone who has read my blog more than once or twice can tell you, my number one beverage choice is the Pepsi-produced Mountain Dew. In Utah, this was not a problem. It seemed any gas station you went into had both Pepsi and Coke products available in the fountain. For some reason this seems incredibly rare in Atlanta. When I first moved here, I had a dickens of a time finding a gas station that featured Mountain Dew on tap. Luckily, Melanie and I eventually discovered QuikTrip (or QT, pronounced “cutie,” a charmingly appropriate nickname). QT not only has the cheapest gas prices in town, it also has some of the best tasting fountain Mountain Dew (or Fountain Dew, as I lovingly call it) in all of America. QuikTrip will be sorely missed when I move to Tallahassee. (For the record, the first gas station that I found with Fountain Dew in Atlanta was a BP. The Mountain Dew tasted heavily watered down, but at the time it was considered a joyous discovery. I almost wrote a celebratory post about it at the time, entitled “God Save the Queen.”)

The gates at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport are about 32 miles away from the Main Concourse, so wear sneakers and pack a lunch.

The Atlanta airport is big, and supposedly it is the busiest airport in America. But if you use the airport train to get from one concourse or terminal to another, it doesn’t strike me as a difficult airport to get around. And if you fly Delta and take the public train (not the airport train) to the airport, you’ll be dropped off right at the Delta check-in desk. It’s ultra convenient.

The 8am rush hour is from 6:00 to 10:30 AM. The 5pm rush hour is from 2:30 to 7:30 PM. Friday's rush hour starts Thursday afternoon and lasts through 2am Saturday.

Sad, but pretty much true. I originally thought the traffic in Atlanta wasn’t so bad, but I quickly had to recant that view. The 5pm rush hour is exaggerated a bit here, however. I’d say it doesn’t get too horrible until about 4 PM, but depending on where you’re headed, it might not clear up by 7:30. One time when Melanie and I were returning to Atlanta from a weekend out of town, the freeway traffic became dead stopped approximately 30 miles prior to reaching Atlanta. That was on a Sunday afternoon.

The falling of one raindrop causes all drivers to immediately forget all traffic rules. If a single snowflake falls, the city is paralyzed for three days and it's on all the channels as a news flash every 15 minutes for a week. Overnight, all grocery stores will be sold out of milk, bread, bottled water, toilet paper, and beer.

This is exaggerated, particularly when it comes to the rain. It does snow in Atlanta on occasion, and it has even snowed for us a handful of times (though it didn’t snow at all during out first winter here). True, they canceled our church 24 hours ahead of time because of the snow, which strikes a native Utahan such as myself as very premature, but nobody acted like it was a big deal. As for the rain, Atlanta is very used to it. The most treacherous thunderstorms I’ve ever experienced have been in Atlanta. Often enough, a Georgia thunderstorm sounds like multiple freight trains are dropping out of the sky and landing in a giant pit a few miles away. Lightning flashes, and almost immediately you are treated to a long, tremendously loud, booming reverberation. It’s quite an experience.

I-285, the loop that encircles Atlanta, which has a posted speed limit of 55 mph (but you have to maintain 80 mph just to keep from getting run over), is known to truckers as "The Watermelon 500."

I don’t know anything about the watermelon nickname, but you’re definitely causing problems if you’re going only 55 mph (assuming it’s not one of the 12-hours worth of “rush hour” in which you’re not moving at all). Atlanta drivers are horrible.

There are 10,000 types of spiders. All 10,000 live in Georgia, plus a couple no one has seen before.

Coming from the relatively dry Intermountain West region of the United States, Melanie and I have had to get used to the horrific bug problem that the South harbors. The word “bug” has a completely different connotation to me now than it did when I lived in Salt Lake City. Thanks to Atlanta, I’ve now encountered insects that are the size of bugs I had previously seen only in museums, pinned to a piece of corkboard. This goes not only for spiders, but for roaches (the dreaded Palmetto having made one too many appearances during my Atlanta tenure), millipedes, bumblebees (so big they look like flying eggplants), and other unidentified crawling objects (UCO’s).

If you notice a vine trying to wrap itself around your leg, you have about 20 seconds to escape, before you are completely captured and covered with Kudzu, another ill-advised "import," like the carp, starling, English sparrow, and other ''exotic wonders."

I noticed the Kudzu right away, but it looked rather cool to me. I had never heard the word before, and I didn’t know it was considered a weed. It does cover tons of trees here, but to me it looks lush and ivy-like. It makes my train commute a little more scenic.


  1. Such a nice visit with you. I'm sure the satire is very much mostly true. As papabear and I drove through the South, I noticed the growth that covered all the trees. It kind of freaks me out because I can't help wondering how you would very walk or run through it. Ugh!...not likely to happen, is it?

  2. This was a fun post.
    Speaking of bugs, this morning Jeffrey found a snail out on the sidewalk. Knowing how much I "love" them, he affectionately picked it up and put it on the railing just outside our apartment door. Ew! I don't know how you could EVER get used to the bugs you've described. Or the rush hour. But the peaches do sound nice... nice enough to name the streets after!