“Georgia Driving School”

It’s not unusual that singular observations come at you enough times to where they harden into opinions.  But it’s quite rare (and not to mention gratifying) when those observations and opinions (even the ones where nobody else seems to agree) are proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  “Reasonable doubt?!” you might scoff.  “Why yes,” I’ll attest, “it was even proven to me in a court of law!”

It did take a while, about six years, but my case was finally proved out in the late summer of 2013.  At the time, I’d lived in Metro Atlanta for six years and the driving habits of the locals had made quite an impression on me.  I’d actually noticed it right away, right after my long trek from the Great Northwest.  People on the highway got reallyclose to me (yeah, that close!) while driving on the highway, or any road, and at any speed.

It freaked me out, it made me angry.  “What was their deal, man!?” I thought, or screamed (often with middle-finger accompaniment).  My car windows were manual, so by the time I’d cranked the driver’s side down, the offender was usually out of view of my stressed, thrusting digit.  Whether it was seen or unseen, I always derived little to no satisfaction from the gesture.  I couldn’t help but notice that nobody else in similar circumstances seemed as perturbed as I.  Like it was normal to have bumper to bumper traffic at 85 MPH.

I thought that because NASCAR was so big in the South, these were probably just racing fans trying to draft off of me and save fuel.  Well, sorry, but I had no use for these petroleum succubae.

There was another thing I observed Metro Atlantans liked to do.  When a car was next to me, on my left, and in a turning lane, they would invariably and without warning veer right into my lane without even looking.  It was like the driver decided their car had suddenly become twenty feet wide just as they were executing a left turn.  No, it was like they’d suddenly turned into Cruise Ship captains…. yeah, that’s it.

Where did these people learn to drive?  Nowhere, I was starting to think, nowhere.

I sometimes doubted my fledgling opinion, even though it was becoming based on multitudous observation.  My opinion went something like this:

There Is No Such Thing as a Georgia Driving School.

I know it sounds grouchy, but I’ll admit a little of it might be based on where I’d come from.  After all, most of my driving had been done in the placid State of Washington.  “Washington” the State motto should read, “Where drivers would rather miss an afternoon ferry boat than honk at an inattentive driver when it was his turn to board.” This was a place where traffic jams (even in downtown Seattle) could be confused with silent movies.

In thick traffic, not only would motorists not honk, they’d sometimes just turn off their engines and wait it out in the middle of I-5, turning five lanes into a quiet parking lot.  It was either Buddha nature, or just passive aggression, I never really decided.  Either way, I got used to the mellow vibe of the Vehicular Washingtonian.

Seattleites chillin'

Seattleites chillin’

I did decide that honking one’s horn in the city of Seattle was probably illegal, based on the looks I received during the two times I tried it in eight years.  Hey, it’s possible, after all, there’s a law in the City of Kennesaw Georgia that requires homeowners to own a handgun! (no really, look it up)

I’d done some driving in the City of Miami when I was in my twenties.  They’d honk every once in a while and drove pretty fast but they were not bad drivers.  There was just the occasional incident where someone would come at you the wrong way at 80 miles an hour on I-95.  Or someone doing (without a turn signal) six lane changes squeezed into a two second window.  Driving in Miami was kinda like being a cop, with long stretches of boredom punctuated by a few seconds of sphincter tightening terror.

But most drivers looked like they’d learned something somewhere, hell, my own Driver’s Ed teacher at Miami Beach High was quite good, my spotless record is evidence of that!

And I never drove in New York City but my opinion is that they are by and large the most skilled drivers in the world.  I’d been in enough taxis that came through tight spaces without a scratch to see this.  Though New Yorkers use their horns as much or more as Seattleites refuse to.  The way I see it, horn blasts in the City are just the language of cars letting each other know where they are, like a kind of (nerve wracking) whale song.

Every city has its own traffic personalities, but in Atlanta, man, it’s just a little cray cray!

Back in September of 2013, and at 46 years of age, I finally received my first ever jury summons.  I showed up at the Cherokee County Courthouse in a pool of 100 other people.  We waited and were assigned numbers and waited some more and played with our smart phones (remember they were all the rage back then).

Finally 30 of us were brought upstairs to swear a couple of oaths and meet the judge, the lawyers, and the plaintiff.  This was great fun!  I’d never seen the inside of a courtroom before and with this being the South, I gleefully imagined it would be like Matlock or, even better, it would be like the Scopes Trial, a room populated with superstitious hillbillies fanning themselves while ceiling fans turned lazily overhead.

I thought of that “I Dream of Jeannie” episode where Tony is railroaded in an insurance scam by a band of  ruthless small town southerners and Jeannie has to bail him out.  I was elated when I heard this would indeed be an insurance case.  Inside I guffawed like The Dukes of Hazzard’s  Rosco P Coltrane.

"Them Dukes!"

“Them Dukes!”

Well, it wasn’t like that all.  The Courtroom was modern and new and beautiful.  Arrayed with computers and smartly dressed articulate lawyers.  There were not even any ceiling fans; they weren’t needed, for the AC was cranked to make the room a brisk 58°F.  For some reason, I like to think maybe it was just tradition, there was an old woman sitting on the side, by the jury box, slowly fanning herself (despite the chill) with what looked like a church program.  Tradition, I’d take what I could get.

So the case involved an auto accident.  The lawyers took turns polling us one at a time; and here’s where I get to the point, my friends.

26 out of the 30 prospective jurors had been in rear end accidents.  That’s like…. a lot of percent!  Several of them had caused rear end accidents and also been hit themselves in other incidents, kind of equaling out their accident karma.  The defense attorney (who didn’t have a southern accent so couldn’t be from around here) actually said he’d never seen so many accidents in one pool.  I just slouched in my jury pew and muttered “Sheeeeee-iiit.”

Of course I was one of the four outliers and I knew for a fact that at least one other of the “Fantastic Four” was from out of state.  So that leaves at most, 2 out of 30 that hadn’t been in a rear end accident and were Georgians.  And maybe they were lying, but come to think of it, the others seemed to be proud of their damage, giving their damage estimate totals in deliberate drawls.

And (as my brother would say) there you have it.  That’s my proof.  All these randomly pooled people had the same kind of accident, the kind any 1st year Driver’s Ed Teacher would counsel them to avoid.  Therefore there can’t possibly be a driving school in this state.   After all, with training it is possible to avoid those kinds of accidents, just don’t drive so crazily close to others.  And I told that very thing to the judge that day.  I was proud of my record the same way the others seemed proud of their accidents.  And I had never attended a “Georgia Driving School.”

With the judge probably concluding that I was lying under oath, I was not chosen for that jury.

I went back to my job; feeling satisfied that I had proven my theory.  And for the rest of my time in Georgia, I stayed frosty, always carefully looking and sometimes angrily trying to shake cars off my ass.  The only thing I got was a little more gray hair.

2 replies
  1. Laura
    Laura says:

    I feel you man! I get the same way about drivers here in Miami. Everyone is a freakin’ idiot here! And no one knows the rules. Glad you were proven correct. And I love “… sphincter tightening terror.”

    Great story!

  2. joe seely
    joe seely says:

    the 3 places on Earth (as a born and bred Seattler) that had me totally white-knucklin’ the steering wheel of the unbelievably fortunate vehicle i happened to be driving at the time or still drive:

    3. fucking Little Rock, Arkansas…excuse me, all Arkansan readers, but that shit is fucked. normally, i’m a bit more eloquent, but the interstate in Little Rock during rush hour navigating a 15 passenger van with a trailer attached…that shit is fucked, for real.

    2. heading south a ways away from ATL, with you, Bill. For some reason, most likely imagined, it was like being sucked into one of those tubes at the drive-thru bank teller. whatever the heck they call those things. (Pneumatic tube?) like i was in the minor leagues of driving, and then, what the farts? 8 lanes in each direction and everyone just NEEDS to be there, wherever there is. and i reckon neither of us were in any hurry to get where we were going particularly quickly, just desperately hanging on to our last shimmering hours of bachelorhood. and then, WHAM! get there, son. GET YOUR ASS THERE. and the Atlanta traffic will always be there, insanely, serenely reminding you of how you got your ass there.

    1. Flatbush Ave. Brooklyn (and all of Brooklyn, for that matter)…not so much because of the drivers, who are consistently, frighteningly resolute in getting there before you (much like ATL), but more for the pedestrians, who just don’t give a fuck. the concept of a traffic light and crosswalk was never presented to entire generations, all over the world, who all serendipitously emigrated to Brooklyn over the course of the last 350 years give/take. All of them, the most ethnically, culturally, and religiously diverse collection of zip codes in the country, as per the most recent census, when faced with the crucible of oncoming traffic, simply do not give a fuck.


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