I'm not the kind of guy who expects everything to work perfectly all the time. I have more than enough – actually way more than enough – experience in my rearview mirror to appreciate that little glitches arise from time to time that simply defy logic or explanation. I have also been around long enough to realize there is little to be gained – other than scrubbing a few minutes, hours or days from my life expectancy – by going ballistic when things happen over which I have no control.
However, I am my father's son; so, I am hard wired to go ballistic at the drop of a hat. I must confess that once in a while a cock-eyed situation gets the better of me, and I do lose it. Doc Budelmann tells me that this isn't good for my blood pressure, nor my health in general. I sort of figured that, but a paid medical professional confirming it, has done much to boost my caution level to Defcon 4. Consequently, I try very hard to keep my temper in check. (If I could, I'd insert a smiley-face emogi here.)
Here's the news flash: I am only human! No matter how destructive I know losing my temper to be, sometimes the situation simply overwhelms my impulse control and the spittle flies. I had such an encounter Thursday as I slugged my way through Atlanta's rush-hour traffic in an heroic attempt to join the fun at the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association's (GAAMA) Christmas party. Well, they've taken to calling it their “year end” party, but that's another rant for another time.
Over the years I have attended three or four of these GAAMA holiday galas, but I hadn't made the past couple. It's a two-plus-hour slog to and from downtown Atlanta from sleepy little Greenville, SC. Although I have become somewhat of an expert traveling this route thanks to my countless trips to Atlanta's airport, driving home at 10:00 or 11:00 at night is not my idea of fun. Of course, I'm way too cheap to spring for a $150 hotel room. Discretion being the better part of valor, I just skip the party.
This year, though, Nissan offered to pick up my hotel room. Bless its heart! Because of Nissan's largesse, I decided to break with recent tradition and put in an appearance.
My plan included driving directly to the Marriott Courtyard Cumberland Galleria and checking in before heading to the party roughly 10 miles away. I calculated that leaving my house around 2:00 would get me to the hotel well before 5:00, avoiding the worst of Atlanta rush hour. Sometimes I crack myself up.
I was hip deep in my upstairs remodeling project when I realized it was already nearly 2:00. I dropped what I was doing, hopped into the shower, dressed, threw my suitcase into the GMC Sierra 1500 that I am driving this week and managed to pull out of my driveway about 2:30. Already 30 minutes behind my self-imposed schedule, I breathed deeply two or three times and retained my calm.
To help pass the time on this drive, I've sort of broken it up into more palatable segments. It's 46 miles to the Georgia state line, another 25 miles to the Commerce, GA exit with its huge outlet mall, and then another 30 or so miles to the Buford exit: the point where I-85 spreads out from 8 lanes to 12 lanes for the final 10-mile sprint to Atlanta's I-285 outer belt.
About 10 miles before the Buford exit, traffic on my side of I-85 came to a near standstill. Clearly there was an accident somewhere ahead. Still doing its job quite adequately at this point, the GMC's nav system had been warning me of the traffic delay for about 50 miles, offering an alternative route. I ignored the warnings, figuring whatever the issue, it would be cleared by the time I arrived there. Not so much.
Finally heeding the nav's advice, I took the next exit, followed the nav's 10-mile detour and returned to I-85 a couple of miles from the Buford exit. I calculated that between the stalled traffic, and the over-the-river-and-through-the-woods detour, I lost about 45 minutes. Suddenly my strategy to beat the heaviest rush-hour traffic – Atlanta's rush hour typically spans 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., but the worst is just before and just after work – had been dashed. Thankfully, I was going against the flow of commuters fleeing downtown and traffic wasn't too bad.
Still only about 4:45, I was optimistic I would arrive at the hotel in plenty of time to check in and meander at a leisurely pace to the party with its 7 p.m. start time. I pressed on.
There is a certain amount of mea culpa in what happened next because I didn't fully research the location of the hotel nor the party. I had no clue where either was located in terms of greater Atlanta or their proximity to I-85 or I-285. Silly me, I trusted the nav system to guide me to my destinations. What I know now that I didn't know then is that the hotel is located almost at the intersection of I-75 and I-285. All but about 3 miles of my journey should have been freeway miles.
What happened next will go down in the annals of the greatest effed-up nav-system snafus. For whatever reason, the nav system decided to direct me off of I-85 about eight miles short of I-285. I followed its prompts and found myself on a frontage road of sorts that eventually turned into two lanes, winding through an industrial park. Now I'm in the thick of rush hour, and traffic is moving at a snail's pace on virtually every surface road in Atlanta.
At one point the street I was on crossed Pleasantdale Road. I glanced to the left and saw an entrance to I-85 S that I had been on earlier. The nav system guided me another mile or so then commanded a left-hand turn. It took me under I-85 where it had me turn left onto a frontage road along northbound I-85. I followed its directions back to Pleasantdale Road where it had me turn left again, cross over I-85 before taking another left onto the I-85 S entrance ramp. What? It was as though someone had poured a gallon of Old Grandad into the fuel tank. This nav system was like a drunken sailor. It had no clue where it was or where I needed to go. I had just lost another 30 or 40 minutes leaving I-85, running on a crowded surface street parallel to I-85 and then reacquiring I-85 10 miles later. I was still several miles short of I-285.
Reaching I-285, I was directed to take it West. A glance at the digital clock revealed it was now 5:45. My 2-hour trip was at more than 3 hours and the nav system was showing me still 20 miles from the hotel. About five miles into my I-285 stint, the nav unit's voice command told me exit the freeway onto Rt. 141, which also happens to be one of the myriad of Peachtree streets, lanes, boulevards, avenues and courts scattered around Atlanta proper.
As the digital clock ticked past 6:15 and the nav system had me making assorted left and right turns through the surface-street congestion – a couple of times the nav touchscreen actually showed the mileage to my destination increasing – I finally had had enough. I suspected my blood pressure was somewhere in the neighborhood of 220 over 195. The palm of my right hand ached from smacking the steering wheel. I was ready to bitch slap a nun!
With the party scheduled to begin at 7:00 and the mileage to the hotel an estimated 10 miles, I decided to wait post-party to find the hotel. I pulled over, entered the address to the party location, which actually was now behind me, and drove directly there. Apparently the GMC's nav unit was better equipped to find that address than that of the hotel because it directed me there without incident.
It was now 6:30 and I had been on the road for 4 hours. I felt like the passengers on the USS Minnow that left for a 3-hour tour and wound up stranded on a desert island. Ticked off? Oh, you bet.
Yes, sometimes I lose a little control; but I think in this instance, it was justified.
Also, I think you would find me hanged in my cubicle if I had to face driving through Atlanta traffic after work every day. Life is way too short for that nonsense.