The Zero Mile Post marked the meeting of two railway lines and possibly the beginning of the city of Atlanta. Zero Mile is a series of sometimes fictionalized and sometimes real stories based on life in Atlanta, Georgia.
By Nicki Salcedo, contributor
I saw a woman with a baby strapped to her chest walking through the DeKalb’s Farmers Market. My first thought was, “Look at that baby carrying a human on its back.” But then I took a second look and wondered where the woman was from. Clearly not Atlanta. Come on, lady! Put a hat and some socks on your baby before you go into the Farmers Market.
The coldest winter I’ve ever spent was a summer inside in Atlanta.
There are rules in this town. Please follow them.
Walk through the Farmers Market like it’s Thunderdome. Grab some animal skin and war paint and push your way past old people to get to the hummus. It’s cold. Dress your kids accordingly.
Use nice manners and proper maneuvering skills in Kroger and Publix. People forget that Kroger was Tinder before Tinder was Tinder. When you get to the end of the aisle, yield the right of way. You can’t swing out of the aisle without stopping. Follow the proper flow of traffic. You’re a salmon swimming upstream in the grocery store. That means start with produce and end at frozen goods. I wonder where some of you grew up not knowing these rules.
Stroll through Ponce City Market very slowly. Like you don’t have a job. Like you don’t have credit card debt accruing interest. Protest every bureaucratic thing in the world, but revel in your days at PCM. Don’t question your purchases and why all your food and makeup items are sold in apothecary jars.
How do you say Atlanta? Atlanna. That’s right, the last “t” is silent. You know how Jamaican’s don’t sweat? Well, Atlantans don’t pronounce the last “t.”
Speaking of pronunciation. Ponce de Leon. After Peachtree (see below), Ponce de Leon is the most important street to know when you come to Atlanta. Don’t pronounce Leon “Lay-un” the way a Spaniard would. Say “Lee-on” like your daddy’s barber. Better yet, don’t say Ponce de Leon at all. Real Atlantans just call it Ponce.
Peachtree. Forget all the books that say Atlanta has a gazillion streets name Peachtree. Like Neo in the Matrix, there is only one. In downtown, it is Peachtree Street, but a few miles up near Buckhead it’s Peachtree Road. Like Ponce, just call this street Peachtree. The so-called other “Peachtree Streets” are named “Peachtree Battle,” “Peachtree Corner Circle.” You wouldn’t confuse these with good old Peachtree now, would you?
Downtown. Peachtree Street from Five Points to Ponce. Center of Atlanta. But I’m really not sure what is south of Downtown.
South of Downtown. Oh, yeah. I remember. The airport. Hartsfield-Jackson. The Spaceport. The true Zero Mile and best intersection in the world.
Midtown. Business district north of Downtown. Ponce de Leon to Amtrak. Y’all forgot we had Amtrak didn’t you? You spend all of your time South of Downtown, aka at the airport.
Buckhead. Shopping. There used to be other stuff, but now it’s just $10,000 pairs of shoes. Makes PCM seem not so bad.
ITP. Inside the perimeter. Technically, inside highway I-285 which circles Atlanta. Philosophically, this is New York South or San Francisco East or Miami North. Nobody really has to say ITP when they live ITP. Outside of ITP it is just flat Earthers.
OTP. Outside the Perimeter. Everyone who lives OTP says this. “I live WAY OTP,” as an excuse for even living half a mile OTP. We aren’t judging you OTPers because you stole the Braves, you bastards. We are judging you because you complain about the traffic and congestion in the city, forgetting you are the reason for the traffic and congestion. Don’t knock OTP, though. You can get a very big house out there. On a golf course, even.
75, 85, 285, 400, 675, 575, 985, 20, and 78. These aren’t the numbers from Lost. These are the highways that get you either ITP or OTP. 285 will just get you ATP (around the perimeter). Do not say “THE” in front of any of these roadways. There is no such thing as “The 85.” This isn’t Lodi, California (That’s on The 5).
Perimeter. You would think this means around Atlanta, but it specifically refers to 285 due north. Near Perimeter Mall, businesses, and Northside Hospital.
MARTA. Public Transportation. In the old racist days of Atlanta, people used to joke that MARTA stood for Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta. Those bad mean racist people are all dead OTP now and would be happy to know that MARTA now accepts Africans, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, and white people. Still rapidly, too. Be cautious in Atlanta as you would in any big city taking the public transportation. I love Marta, not only is it Smarta, but it is the easiest way to get to and from the airport and other central locations in the city.
Smile. If you can’t smile, make eye contact. This is the South. Pretend to be courteous while you’re here.
You cannot say “Bless her heart” unless you’re Southern or Sally Kilpatrick. Otherwise you just sound like a b*tch.
Don’t judge. So, a guy you pass on Peachtree has gold teeth, dreadlocks, and smells like weed. This doesn’t make him a drug dealer. No matter what you heard about that movie ATL. He might be: 1) an entertainment professional 2) an athlete 3) a local politician or 4) a high school lit teacher. Pay him some respect. He might be able to buy and sell your podunk hometown.
Oh, this goes for rednecks and country boys, too. Don’t assume that nice Southern boys are dumb or racist just because they talk with a twang. It’s really offensive to tell them that you want them to join your zombie apocalypse team. White boys in Georgia are not Daryl Dixon from “The Walking Dead.” Stop thinking this: “You’re white and Southern, so you must own a crossbow.” Don’t profile people.
Pick up your discarded chicken bones, Atlanta. You know the gas station next to the wing place has really big trash cans.
Real Southerners aren’t afraid of rain. We will still go to a soccer game or music festival or fish fry regardless of rain. We all have a coat with a hood and an umbrella that collapses into our back pocket. A Southern lady is never embarrassed to wear a shower cap in public or a grocery store bag on her head. Rain can’t stop us.
We are an ever evolving city. Hollywood might visit, but some of us plan to stay for a while. You need to know how to shop, what to say, and when to be nice. This is Georgia, y’all. The nice thing is every day.
Nicki Salcedo knows the loops and the back roads of Atlanta. She is a novelist, blogger and working mom. Zero Mile stories appear on the Atlanta Loop on Wednesdays.