My job takes me to exotic locales like Atlanta, which, as far as I can tell, is exactly like Dallas except, perhaps, a little more Southern belle than cowgirl. And that’s just a line of BS to needlessly impress Atlanta, which, like Dallas, isn’t really that much different than most other large cities I visit. A lesson I learned in preparation for my move to Dallas many years ago, when I mounted a large steer horn hood ornament on my Nissan Sentra ala JP Gottrocks and donned a 10-gallon hat for my first day on the job. Then I was told that North Dallas isn’t really that much different from the mean streets of suburban Chicago, so I quickly ditched the spurs before I hurt myself. Besides, I couldn’t get them to stick on the Chuck Taylor’s very well and they were quickly wearing a hole in the floorboard of the bitchin’ Sentra. But I kept the assless chaps, so I’d have something to wear to the Manhole Bar when I was lonely. I’ve already wildly digressed.
If you don’t know Atlanta, I’ll share what I know. The airport is on the south side and my destination in the Perimeter area is on the far north side, and there are approximately 8.9 million cars in between the two points going to the same place that you wish to. Fortunately, they built a train that runs between the same two points that can get you across town in about an hour, thus shaving approximately 3 days off the commute. All for the low, low price of $1.75, no ups, no extras. They call it MARTA out there, which I believe is an acronym for the Mig Ayesa Rockin’ Train Association, with each train car containing an elfin Australian dude playing ballads on a toy piano. Or maybe it just stands for My Ass Rides Trains Around. Go look it up if you really care.
I’m a fan of public transportation, so upon deplaning I got a token from the vending machine with the same fervor normally reserved for condom machines in sleazy bar bathrooms. Unfortunately, I only had a twenty dollar bill and received 73 quarters in change. Quarters don’t stay in g-strings very well, so I would be screwed if I ran into any of the city’s strippers on the train. From what I’ve heard, Atlanta and Dallas have quite a number of strip clubs. I've even heard that The Men's Club has a decent menu, too. But you might be surprised to know that Portland, Oregon has the highest number per capita. I was surprised, but now I know how Oregon State University got their nickname. Maybe all those strippers really are doing it just to pay their way through school. Wow, another wild digression.
So I’m riding MARTA, not wearing assless chaps and not finding any strippers (my research shows that they usually travel in new Ford Mustangs), and finding it an uneventful experience. Which isn’t a bad thing while riding public transportation. I’m not sure they made a wise choice by carpeting the floors of the train, since it seemed to have picked up an unusual odor that I really didn’t want to think about too much. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but think about some homeless guy marking his train car after a long ride with a bottle of Thunderbird. I tried to distract myself by reading job applications over the shoulder of the woman in front of me. I think it had something to do with managing grant money for a hospital. Whatever it was, it sounded even less interesting than what I already do, so I told her I was unable to accept her offer but wish her and the organization continued success. We rolled through downtown and soon I was deposited at the Dunwoody (heh, heh, I said woody) stop in Perimeter to start earning some reward points at my hotel. Another 47 nights and I’ll qualify for a free night in Des Moines. Next day, I went to my meeting, looked pretty, tried to make a few relevant points to justify my billing rate, and took MARTA back to the airport, now down to only 66 quarters. I tried to find a Ms. Pac-Man machine to lighten my load, but to no avail.
I must have made some damn good relevant points that day because they requested my presence in Atlanta a couple weeks later. And I’m not that pretty. So I loaded my 66 quarters back into my pockets, unloaded them into the giant tub to get through security, loaded them back into my pants, searched unsuccessfully for a Ms. Pac-Mac machine, and eventually got to Atlanta. At 10 p.m. That’s well after dusk. By myself. With a shiny Apple PowerBook G4 and some fresh underwear in my bag. Sometimes in a meeting I’ll pretend to whip out the underwear instead of the PowerBook by mistake. That’s always good for a hearty laugh. Or an early dismissal. You never can tell. But I digress. I confess I was afraid of getting my underwear stolen on the train late that night. The pair in my bag, not the pair in my pants. Even if the potential mugger wasn’t my size, he might then take the PowerBook out of spite. I can run commando for a day if necessary, but without the trusty PowerBook I’ll be left only with phrases I've picked up from Dilbert comic strips. So I took a shuttle to the hotel and safely arrived with my underwear and my PowerBook, but felt like a big wuss. To get my self-esteem back, I beat up my shuttle driver but felt bad afterwards and tried to make it up to him with a generous tip. Mostly in quarters. I told him the whole PowerBook/underwear story while trying to stop his nose from bleeding, and he got a hearty laugh. That only made me feel worse because I think he had a cracked rib and hearty laughter was not the best medicine. So I kicked him in the shin and went to check in before I made matters worse.
I put another notch in my lipstick case – only 46 more stays until my free night in Des Moines.