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Seven Hours? I Can Do It In Ten!

March 5, 2009

So, my wife made it to Atlanta safely on Sunday night to be with her family. Of course, she had to drive through pretty nasty conditions, with blowing snow and a lot of ice build up on the roads. She would call me with updates about the road conditions, her position, and what level of road rage she was experiencing. Most of the time, it was code red. You know, the "I'm going to get out and pummel the guy in front of me with my bare knuckles if he leaves 200 car lengths of space between him and the car in front of him one more time...and turn off your effing blinkers, Smackass!"

I doubt you've ever made the drive to Atlanta from the Raleigh-Durham area. It, in theory, is a nice little jaunt down I-85. Charlotte's a nice town to drive through, the Upstate of South Carolina is scenic-ish, there's lots of ads for topless truck stops. You know, standard interstate travel. It's also about a six hour drive, but since we're northeast of the city and my wife's family all live on the northwest side, it takes about seven because you have to drive down to nearly the heart of the city, catch 285 over to I-75, and then come back up. As Hap said, it's a spaghetti mess. In theory, it should be an easy commute, but it's not.

We've also never had any luck on the drive.

This past weekend, of course, my wife was driving through what constitutes a blizzard around these here parts. She was cruising along at a break-neck speed of 2.5 miles per hour. She knew this because she went from exit 300 to exit 302 in an hour. She sat and stared at the same Waffle House for that entire time, wondering if she'd run out of gas and have to hang out in it's smoke-filled walls until someone came and rescued her. In theory, Waffle Houses are awesome--it's a dive restaurant built around a breakfast menu. However, trying to cut through the grease-addled and smoke-filled air to find a table that is wiped clean with some spit and a dirty rag by a waitress who hit her prime thirty years ago and permanently has the stub of a lit cigarette dangling from her lower lip brings the notion of a dive restaurant to an all new low. This ain't Mel's diner, and if you don't think you can hide a lot of health code violations in the biscuits and gravy, you've got another thing coming to you. Fortunately, she was able to find a gas station and refuel so that she could avoid a greasy death at the hands of Bear the Trucker and his sidekick.

It took my wife just about three hours to get from the Georgia-South Carolina border to Gwinnett county, which is on the north east side of Atlanta. You might remember Gwinnett county as being the home of Laura Mallory, the harpy stay-at-home mom who sued the county to get the Harry Potter books out of the school libraries. If you need a refresher, here's some links to her sad tale. Anyway, in Gwinnett county, the interstate opens up from two lanes to six. Also, here is the point where the snow plows from Atlanta decided to stop working and turn around and go home. The road from the border to the widening of the interstate was a solid glare of ice that less resembled the aftermath of a storm and looked more like Lou the Zamboni Driver put in another job well done. At one point, the car beside her or in front of her or something parked, everyone got out and had a snowball fight, because the rest of the traffic wasn't moving. I think that's when the vein in her forehead began throbbing, and she called me up to tell me that she was "going to die or kill someone."

Also, she saw the true signs of a southern snow storm on her commute: snow plows in the ditch. I'm always amazed and amused any time we get a snow or ice event (they're not storms down here, they're events, truly) and the snow plows are stranded in the ditch because the drivers don't know to turn into the slide. Overall, it took her about ten hours to get there.

The summer when my son Tank was just about to turn 1, we went down to Atlanta to visit my wife's family. Again, what should have been a routine drive turned not-so-routine when we were stopped, once more, on the interstate just after crossing the Georgia border. We sat there for hours. Apparently, as we finally creeped around the scene, we saw guys in hazmat suits cleaning up a tanker spill of some kind. I never found out what it was, but it was a very unpleasant time sitting in the car with an 11-month old and a three year old for three hours and not moving. When we finally were able to pull off and get some gas and hopefully a little snack, I stopped at a Chick-Fil-A and ordered a milkshake, because Chick-Fil-A milkshakes are the milkshakes they serve in Heaven (probably has something to do with that not open on Sundays thing). Only problem is, much to my chagrin, the milkshakes were not national yet, and only select cities had them. Durham, North Carolina had them; Commerce, Georgia, didn't. Muttering curses about shrunken genitalia and the fleas of a thousand camels to infest their body hair, I returned to the car unsated, but with my blood-sugar and cholesterol levels remaining in the "safe" category.

However, neither of these times top the first trip we made to Atlanta where we had an unfortunate traffic tie-up. We had just gone past Greensboro, North Carolina and were sailing down the road when we were met with a wall of traffic. This was shortly after my son was born, so all four of us were in the car and sitting, dead still, in traffic. The area was being lashed by some terrific thunderstorms at the time, so we figured that was the cause for the delay. However, the storms moved off and the traffic remained. We finally were able to limp up exit 118 to get gas and for a bathroom break. Unfortunately, at this juncture, there was only one option: a lone BP standing atop the hill overlooking the interstate. This means that everyone who needed to piss and refuel got off here. I had to wait fifteen minutes to get to a gas pump. In the meantime, my wife and daughter got out and stood in line for 25 minutes to get to the bathroom...which had six inches of standing water on the floor. Cold, brown, fetid standing water. My daughter's shoes got soaked while she waded through the sludge to get to the potty, and we left the shoes there as a souvenir for the owners. Looking out over the interstate, we saw that the cars stretched to the horizon and beyond, so we decided to cut cross-country to I-77, where we would go south and hook back up with I-85 in Charlotte.

First, though, we came to Business I-85, and so my wife and I decided to risk it. We turned on it, and things were going splendidly until the business route merged back in with I-85. Here, the cars were still backed up and still not moving.

That's when I lost my shit.

Fuming, my wife tried to calm me with a snack. For some reason, we were trying to eat healthy or some shit, and so we had some celery in the car. She gave me a piece of celery, and I vented my frustrations on the celery, slamming it against the steering wheel, screaming, "I don't want a piece of celery, I want the fucking traffic to move. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fucking fuck FUCK!!!" While I continued to weave a tapestry of expletives that flowed out over the hood of the car and onto the lanes of traffic around me, I took the tattered remains of the celery and hurled them out the window as hard as I could at the guard rail, where they met the metal with a dull thud, clung to it for a moment, and then tumbled to the ground. With the celery valiantly sacrificed and my enraged tirade over, I rolled the window back up and worked my way through the traffic.

Again, three hours later, we finally passed the source of the trouble. Apparently, a semi truck had decided to take the scenic route into a deep, kudzu-lined valley, and the authorities were trying to pull it out. Half the road was blocked off and, as the wenches and cranes strained to pull the shattered remains of a once-functioning semi cab and trailer from the ravine, they would have to close the other lane, as well, to ensure people's safety. Once we were allowed past it, we had no other issues for the remainder of the trip. However, that trip was the pinnacle of road rage frustrations on our trips to Atlanta, and has forever been dubbed "The Celery Event."


Susan said...

Ahhh... and yes, I see, the normalcy begins to return. Ps... I miss my college days at UCS in Columbia! I love me some cocks!

TishTash said...

Tis a shame that such a violent bloodbath should be named after the Celery, one of the mildest of all Vegetables in all the land, third only to the Lettuce and the Cauliflower.

It should be named after the most Evil, and therefore most Bad-Ass of all Vegetables - the Brussel Sprout. Too bad you didn't pack brussel sprouts for a snack.

Jidai said...

Southerners are so ill prepared for snow, they think an inch will kill them all. When I was 4 I went trick or treating in a blizzard.

Also, I think it is gods way of getting you away from Atlanta... *realizes I live in Georgia* SON OF A--

Sass said...

I can only imagine if I were in a state of utter road rage and someone handed me a piece of celery.

You made me snort.


Frank said...

I've only had the pleasure of going to a Waffle House once, just outside of Macon, Georgia. The place was already filled with fat guys in bib overalls at 7 AM, and as soon as they heard me speak with a Northern accent, all motion in the restaurant stopped. I guess it had been a while since any of them had seen a Northern, black-loving, college educated guy...

Giggle Pixie said...

Celery never would have worked for me. Starbucks frappachino, maybe. :-)

Joel D. Timm said...

Glad to see that I am not the only one who gets steamed in traffic. My wife is always trying to calm me down, telling me that the kid is going to pick up on my language.

Who is she kidding? The kid is going to learn that language anyway. Might as well be from me.

Hap said...

Great. Traffic tieups with munchkin in car - time to get that vocabulary not for polite company spun up to speed. Something to look forward to. Maybe she can even file and cross-reference curses for specific situations.

I'm wondering if you folks are any better at the turn signal thing than here in the OH. It seems difficult to imagine, but I have learned not to say that things can't possibly get worse.

Hap said...

Oh, and my dissatisfaction with local traffic has given me fantasies about the creative use of a paintball gun (OK, not so creative) on offending cars (and if necessary the nether regions of their drivers and occupants). My wife has to keep saying "No, you are not getting a paintball gun."

Joe said...

Not that it helps, but when driving from Athens, GA to Richmond, VA for those 4-5 years. I always took I-20 to I-95. 65 MPH the whole way and no major cities. I-85 was a pain in the ass. To Richmond it worked, 50 miles longer but same time, but to the Triangle maybe not. But now that I say that my x-girlfriend's family live in Marietta and we always took I-85 so once again I'm no help to you. BTW I borrowed your MeOH today, OK?

Joe said...

Hap - I had the same paintball thought, pepper the idiot's cars with paint. Just an easy way to warn everyone else about the idiots on the road.

Chemgeek said...

You should do what I do. Keep a bottle of scotch in the glove compartment.

coolred38 said...

MJenks...if that mere attempt at traffic congestion is the best...or the have to deal with...and causes you to lose it...please brother...PLEASE do not come to the Middle East...I dare say that you wife will have to have an entire salad buffet table at the ready to get you through it what we have to lie.

Moooooog35 said...

You should have saved the celery and threw it at the stupid fucking truck driver.


If I'm in traffic for three fucking hours there had BETTER be at least a head rolling around in the middle of the road or some shit to make it worth my while.

I'm going to start keeping celery in my car for this very purpose.

Thanks for the tip!

Soda and Candy said...

I can totally understand celery as a rage-trigger.

My dad used to get in trouble from my mum for swearing in front of me in the car. He ended up substituting odd things for swear-words, like "Pig's bum!"

Nej said...

Why can't they wait to pull those vehicles out of the ditch when there isn't so much traffic. Like, say...2 am, sunday morning?

I mean, the driver was dumb enough to put the thing in the ditch, why does he have to mess up the driving conditions for everyone else too?