The suburbs of Atlanta can be very quiet—especially at night. In LA, it’s hard to find a place, or time, that you don’t hear some kind of noise—mostly cars, but also leaf-blowers, dogs, and the occasional Persian block party that goes into the wee hours.
Our first few nights in the new Atlanta home it was so quiet we thought we could forego our usual white-noisemaker that helped us sleep in LA. The constant shhhh sound can block out most things (except the heavy bass from one of those Persian block parties).
The first night we tried to go silent in Atlanta, I heard Alex’s sheets ruffle at about 3:00am. “You asleep?” I asked rhetorically. “No, it’s so quiet I can hear the house talking,” Alex replied. And she was right: Our new house was creaking and cracking like an old man’s bones. I asked a builder friend about it the next day and he said it was just “settling.”
So we got the noisemaker out and just in time—a nightly chorus had begun. It started as a few frogs and a couple bug chirps and became a cicada crescendo. These large-winged tree-dwelling bugs that come out in summer here were louder than the 101 Freeway at rush hour…or maybe it was just a higher pitch. Either way, we were glad we hadn’t sold the noisemaker at our last LA garage sale.
Garage sales in Atlanta are a bit different than those in LA. First off, they do not occur on Sundays—hell, they just started selling alcohol on Sundays not too long ago (albeit, after noon). Second, they are more often than not a planned estate-sale type of event. No haggling, and some will even charge you sales tax!
In LA, there were garage sales in alleys, on front lawns, even out of trunks of cars. If you were asking $100 for an item, you could get offers as low as $2. People never expected to pay anything close to what you were asking. There was one couple that came to our garage sales in LA before the move who worked every angle: they were older and foreign, so they played the “I’m old and frail so give me a real special deal” card; and they never seemed to understand English when it came to deal-time, though they would speak it fluently coming up the driveway to the guy who just left with something they liked.
Alex had a set of glass items that were actually worth a lot of money, but she didn’t want to worry about moving them across country, so she put them out at decent price to sell. Well this old couple bought one item from the set, knowing we’d have a harder time selling an incomplete set, and then came back three times hoping that since the rest hadn’t sold, we would just give it away. They were so rude and sneaky (and obvious in their sneakiness) that by the end of the ordeal, Alex said to me “if they come back, and ask if I’ll take pennies for this again, I am going to take it and break it on the driveway in front of them and say, ‘I’d rather break this than sell it to someone so rude for nothing.’” Fortunately for them they did not return.
Rudeness is kind of a thing in LA. Not the New York “in your face” kind of rudeness, just an “I’m too busy or too important” kind of nonchalant rudeness. Atlanta, especially the suburbs, still has some of that southern politeness.
At first, we were taken aback; like “what’s this person want—they have to want something—no one is this nice.” But after awhile we just rolled with it: At the grocery store, talking extensively about your weekend; or at the liquor store, talking about your alma mater that happened to be on your shirt that day. It was pleasant…unless you were in a rush.
Speaking of being in a rush, I have to talk (for a minute anyway) about traffic in Atlanta versus LA. Atlantans love to complain about their traffic, and I’ll admit it’s bad at times in certain directions on certain days, but try getting around in LA on almost any day, any time. That’s the real difference I think: In LA you never know when and where it will be bad; in Atlanta, it’s pretty obvious.