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Ride of your life

MARTA benefits the young and the carless

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Despite the occasional late bus and even what seems like an ever-present funny smell, I find a sick pride in being one of the few, the proud, the transported of MARTA. My vanity stems from guzzling less gas and getting in more cardio work as a result of my two-year relationship with Atlanta's public-transportation option.

If you find yourself without a vehicle in the metro area, and the eco-friendly forced exercise sounds like a pitiful excuse for your depressing circumstances, fear not. There exists one all-important benefit to carless transportation, and it makes for one hell of a ride. The MARTA experience must be seen, heard, felt and, well, smelled by everyone, but there are some points to keep in mind while navigating the vines of Atlanta's concrete jungle.

First, don't wear heels. Comfort trumps fashion when there's walking to be done. All dolled-up and running late one evening, I started down MARTA's sticky steps in my strappy sandals and proceeded to careen down said stairs. No matter. I picked myself up, pulled the Bubblicious off my booty, and I was off again.

Until I hit another figurative bump in the train tracks: The train was out of commission due to one of those mysterious MARTA crises that the disembodied, unintelligible voice tries to explain. This happens a lot. Allow for delays, especially if there's a job interview to make, or a potential date is too lazy to pick your carless ass up at your apartment.

After reaching my destination and doing my uptown business (many hours and many city blocks later), I reentered the Arts Center MARTA station with a pair of the cutest high heels in Atlanta in my hands and two of the dirtiest feet in the world. The pain of those straps digging into my flesh overshadowed even the most egregious diseases I could have contracted barefoot on MARTA.

And no matter how comfortable your shoes, don't walk from Midtown to downtown at 10 p.m. via Piedmont Avenue with glow-in-the-dark platinum-blond hair. You'll attract less-than-savory suitors like a bug zapper's neon light bulb. Walking to get fresh air is just not a good idea in that situation, even if it does save $1.75.

Next, stay open-minded about the company on MARTA. After an hour in a bus with a biblically well-versed driver trying to save my soul, I'll testify to the intellectually and spiritually rich environment that public transportation fosters. And after trucking myself to an open-mic poetry night in Little 5 Points filled with emo whiners, I far preferred the hobo's spoken-word performance I endured on the ride there.

Also, depend on the kindness of strangers – to an extent. For example, there's a huge difference between a kindly gentleman asking for change and, say, a person barking at you from across the station.

I learned the hard way not to believe everything I hear from my well-meaning MARTA brethren. After my struggle with the token machine one night, someone suggested I hop over the gate and leave my MARTA money on the side.

Taking the advice, I ended up stuck halfway in the turnstile just as a less-flexible MARTA cop walked around the corner. I got out of that tight spot by acting like as big an idiot as I looked like.

Finally, an adventurous attitude will get you anywhere you want to go. Plus, it helps to be flexible when you're aiming to see Piedmont Park's shirtless Frisbee throwers, but take a wrong turn and accidentally end up smack-dab in the middle of Technology Square. As everyone seems to learn in college, it's all about your sense of direction in life.

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