Chris Johnson

An Uber-normal transportation experience in Atlanta

In this Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, file photo, a driver displaying Lyft and Uber stickers on his front windshield drops off a customer in downtown Los Angeles.
In this Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, file photo, a driver displaying Lyft and Uber stickers on his front windshield drops off a customer in downtown Los Angeles. Associated Press

There are few things I abhor more than driving around the city of Atlanta — or even riding with someone else driving around the city for that matter.

Perhaps I have some disease like orangebarrelphobia or I just don’t like the idea of going 2 miles per hour on an interstate. Whatever the reason, I just don’t like it.

I’ve been in plenty of transportation experiences that are disconcerting — from the world’s fastest, brakeless taxis in Africa to overcrowded buses in Central America to turbulence in the sky that led to passengers applauding when the plane finally landed safely.

But those places aren’t home. Granted, Atlanta is not my home, either, but the state of Georgia is. And, like it or not, this city is the hub of an awful lot of activity that sometimes requires me to be there.

OK, so maybe I wasn’t required to be at Bobby Dodd Stadium in 200-degree heat this past Saturday, but I wanted to see Mercer take on a major college football program for the first time since they’ve restarted their program. And, while I’m waiting for them to take on a major college program, I figured I could watch them play at Georgia Tech in the meantime.

By the time Mercer fell behind 28-10 late in the third quarter, the only thing I was required to do at that point was to find an air-conditioner and a cool shower back at my hotel, which was in walking distance of the stadium. Now, I can walk in Atlanta just fine. Usually. Unfortunately, I brought the wrong pair of shoes for such walking, and the backs of my heels were getting rubbed raw. If my wife and I were going to meet friends at Atlantic Station for drinks and overpriced barbecue sandwiches, I was going to need a ride.

“Use Uber!” my friend suggested. Generally, I’m a little skeptical of his suggestions. I mean, this is the same guy who once talked me into investing my entire life savings into his short-lived Perfect Possum fine dining restaurant. I still haven’t recouped that $63.

Nevertheless, my feet hurt, and the last few taxis I tried in Atlanta smelled funny, so I tried it. I downloaded the Uber app, and the icon landed on my smart phone right between my two most-used apps — Golf Pad (which allows me to keep my golf score and find the distance to each hole) and Flashlight (which helps me find the golf balls I lose during each round of golf).

Now, this is the part where what would be a normal, everyday event for any other human goes haywire for me. That’s the way my life generally works. However, my two Uber rides to and from were exceptionally normal. Both the drivers were well-spoken, friendly women. The cars were abnormally clean — though my wife would argue all vehicles are clean compared to my pickup truck. It was economical. And none of the cars smelled like ash trays.

I’ll definitely try this again next time I need a ride in some overgrown city where orange barrels outnumber the actual residents.

I might even try it next time I need a ride back home in Possum Holler — assuming Uber will let its drivers carry folks in the beds of pickups.

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