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Navigating the traffic nightmare - Valerie Baldowski

I was driving home Saturday night when it struck me for the umpteenth time how spread out the metro-Atlanta area is. Nowhere is really that close to anywhere, and to get from point A to point B sometimes takes longer than I care to admit.

Call it suburban sprawl, but I grow weary and a little vexed with constantly finding myself behind the wheel to get anywhere. Sometimes it seems to take forever to reach my destination, especially with heavy traffic.

Some will say carpooling is one answer. That sounds great, in theory. Trouble is, whenever I want or need to go somewhere, no one else would want to go.

Very rare is the situation where one works in the same community as one lives. Usually, in metro Atlanta, a commute of 30 to 45 minutes one way, or in some cases even longer, is commonplace. With jobs still being so hard to find, that trend is likely to continue for a while longer.

Once, when I was living in Union City, I had a job in Tucker. The job didn't pay much to begin with, and taking into account the money I spent on gas getting back and forth to work, I just broke even. One morning when I got stuck in traffic, I literally was an hour late.

I used to work with a woman who lived in Conyers, whose husband commuted to work in East Point. That's quite a haul. Another time, I worked with a gentleman who lived in Alpharetta and commuted to work in East Point. If that doesn't put wear and tear on your car, nothing will.

When my son was in preschool, for a while he was enrolled in a child care facility in College Park. It was a wonderful preschool, and we both loved it, but I hated the commute. On weekday mornings, after leaving home in Morrow, I would drive up to College Park, drop him off, then turn around and drive to work in McDonough. It took me a solid hour to get to work. Now my morning drive is not as long, but it still can be tricky navigating the highways.

Driving back and forth daily, I sometimes wonder what goes through the heads of other drivers. Of course I see the usual -- plenty of drivers with a cell phone glued to their ear. I hurry past them, not wanting to be anywhere near them in case they absent-mindedly hit the brakes or drift into my lane. Some folks drive 10 miles down the road with their turn signals blinking, making no turns or lane changes.

Then there are those who daydream at the green light, then suddenly wake up and shoot forward just as the light turns yellow.

And let's not forget the impatient ones who toot the horn immediately, just as the light turns green.

Yes, driving in metro Atlanta is quite an adventure, especially with big rigs hauling whatever it is they have in their 53-foot-long trailers, coming up behind you and rumbling right up to your bumper. Trying to merge onto the freeway and having one almost sideswipe you, passing just inches away going 65 or 70 mph, is breathtaking.

With all that mess, maybe it would be easier to be beamed over from one point to another, like the folks from the Enterprise did in "Star Trek."

Valerie Baldowski covers government and politics for the Henry Daily Herald. She can be reached via e-mail at vbaldowski@henryherald.com.