Tips for Moving to Atlanta, U.S.A.

by Martha Polk

1. Arrive friendless and carless to maximize feelings of estrangement in this strange new city full of strangers.

2. Even if Google maps says it’s a bike trail and it’s so trustingly coded in that green dotted line, it may not be a bike trail. As in, sometimes you have to trust the real live world over the internet when you’re biking “the trail” and it just keeps being abandoned railroad tracks covered in gravel and glass, the tall grass on either side hiding syringes below and hoisting up used condoms to glisten in the midday sun. You shouldn’t get to this point but if you do, just wave to the two black escalades parked opposite each other under the bridge. And when an arm emerges from each escalade to share a prolonged handshake — this is the time to maladroitly maneuver a 180 degree turn in the condom gravel and offer a, “Woops! Sorry guys! Google told me this was the Beltline Trail!”

3. Just because every bartender, waitress, and smarmy little dog type man asks you why you’re there alone doesn’t mean you have to feel bad about being everywhere alone all the time. Plus you do have tons and tons of awesome best friends who will gladly hang with you at home every night and sometimes on into the wee morning hours but it’s hard for them to come out because they live on the Battlestar Gallactica.

4. Nobody likes an eavesdropper. Laughing at overheard jokes/conversations in a sad subconscious effort to build the illusion of community makes the funny strangers feel uncomfortable and vulnerable, especially when they can’t get away from you because you’re on the bus. Similarly, unsolicited commentary about the weather, the snazzyness of a lady’s earrings, or the final twist in some handsome man’s book — all of this falls on the Socially Desperate to Totally Annoying Spectrum. If you get comfortable on The Spectrum, you’re a stone’s throw from the corner bum on your old Brooklyn block who every morning informed the neighborhood that you were wearing jeans. Even when you weren’t.

5. Again, the proof is in Atlanta’s pudding: If someone has sampled most Southern prisons, if he doesn’t eat and he drinks and smokes and swaggers as if he’s been addicted to heroin for long periods of his adult life, if his nickname is literally ‘Trouble,” this person is not a potential new best friend or lover. Unless he has a car!

6. All the bike lights in the world won’t save you from the owls and bats of these Gothic environs.

7. Just leave the bar when the drunk cartoonist starts to draw you. Because it turns out it’s weird to have someone stare at your face for that long, and it only gets weirder when the caricature he produces looks like a 60-year-old aerobics instructor crossed with maybe a fox?

8. It’s OK that you’ve been here three weeks but managed to get only craisins and coffee in your kitchen cabinet. This fact is not a reflection of your self-worth or a sign of gross shortcomings re: project adulthood; it’s just next to impossible to get 80 pounds of heavy and/or prickly items like stewed tomatoes and pineapples home (not to mention those quick-melting frozen berries you’ve come to love so much!) while bearing this weight on your back, urging your squeaking bicycle uphill in 96-degree heat. Forget finding the store on public transit or trying to spread out your shopping over the week — this will fail and that means you will have to do the unimaginable. So when you do finally confront this grocery enigma head-on, and you do find yourself cranking those pedals up a sun-struck hill, unable to tell if you’re sweating through your underpants or if all 80 pounds of milk and toilet bowl cleaner and limeade and, heaven help you, spreadable cheeses are leaking — nay, oozing — through the unexpectedly porous fabric of your hiking backpack, well then let recent failed grocery attempts propel you to the finish line, i.e. the time earlier this week when you got a flat tire on the way to a grocery store that (surprise!) no longer exists. Yes, let this memory of sweat-soaked failure sweeten the taste of imminent accomplishment and pull you uphill, slowly, to success. This success will look a lot like changing your underpants and drinking a warm glass of milk, but don’t be fooled — success it is!

9. Just pretend you’ve had Sweet Tea before.

10. You don’t have to call, just text the nice lady who sold you the desk chair off craigslist and tell her you can’t figure out how to put it together and if she could either just leave an instruction manual out on her stoop where you originally picked up the chair or maybe just go ahead and take the chair back and refund your $40, that would be really helpful because right now you’re in a seriously tight spot regarding things like cash, desk chairs, and common sense about how everyday objects fit together. This is also a time to break your rule about emoticons and just smatter that sucker with awkwardly winking, humbled but endearing smileys.

11. Offer great thanksgivings and maybe shed a tear of joy or two and then put on some kinda smart/fun girl outfit and ATTEND THE VERY FIRST ATLANTA HAIRPIN MEETUP.

And for tips on how to move to San Francisco, see Elissa Bassist at the Rumpus.

Martha Polk writes about women, movies, and herself.