I belong to the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association. "Greater" was inserted into the organization's name to imply that even a struggling journalist 150 miles away in Greenville, SC is qualified for membership. (We also have members as far flung as Nashville Tennessee -- a much more liberal interpretation of "Greater" than Greenville.) Not only do I belong to GAAMA, I am on its board. Not only am I on its board, I'm senior vice president. Yes, it's a lofty title; but so is "Queen of England" and she doesn't do much of anything either. We have another VP, Ryan Rees, who does the real heavy lifting. I'm just sort of window dressing. They trot me out every once in a while to make a pronouncement such as, "Pay your dues," or "Make sure you get your valet-parking claim check validated before leaving the restaurant," stuff like that.
Toyota sponsored this year's GAAMA Christmas party. Yes, we still call it a Christmas party. Scheduled to begin at 6 PM at a restaurant in Atlanta, it wasn't a must-attend sort of event; but I felt it my duty to put in at least a cameo. After all, these folks did go to the polls and vote for me. From my back door to the party location is roughly a 2-hour drive. To compensate for the weather, unforeseen problems and Atlanta rush-hour traffic, I left home at 3:30 for the event's 6 PM kickoff.
Unrelenting rain fell for the entire drive. About 45 miles from the restaurant, traffic on I-85 came to a complete halt. This happened to me once before during an early-morning run to Atlanta's airport. Traffic just stopped and sat. After about 10 minutes, it was as though someone shot off a starter's pistol; the entire clog of stalled cars just took off. This incident was a repeat of my earlier experience. As I sat there, though, I contemplated turning around and heading for home. I had already suffered a bout of buyer's remorse as I sat eating lunch at home before embarking on this trip. I was ambivalent about going and probably should have listened to my gut.
However, I pressed on. Big mistake. I-85 was typically congested, particularly for the 20 or so miles between Exit 115, where the highway widens from two lanes to five or six lanes, and I-285. I had no idea what a mess I-285 is under good weather conditions at 5:30 on a weekday afternoon. In the rain it's a sluggish, hair-pulling mess to the tenth power. The GPS nav unit in the Scion tC I was driving sent me up the on-ramp to I-285 West. It was like hitting a wall.
Hands on the dashboard clock moved, pages ripped off the calendar, the wheels of my tC inched along. Traveling the necessary 18 miles or so of I-285 required nearly 70 minutes. Seventy minutes of my life that I will never see again. Lost as last year's Easter Egg, the nav unit then couldn't seem to locate the restaurant's address once I was within about a mile of it. It directed me around the same square block four or five times before I realized it was clueless. Over the years I have learned not to trust directions, not to trust Mapquest and not to trust a GPS. Always have a backup!
I had printed out directions posted by the restaurant. I finally pulled over, switched on the overhead light and read the printed directions. I then drove back to the closest landmark on the printed directions I remembered seeing, and followed the printed instructions to the restaurant. About two blocks from the final destination, the GPS regained consciousness and announced the address was coming up on the left.
I arrived at the party a few minutes after 7:00, and was back on the road home at 9:15. Total time for the drive back to Greenville: 2 hours 5 minutes.