Home of the Braves . . . and the Beckmans

We’ve been here in Atlanta for two weeks now. So far, so good. With each new day a few more boxes are unpacked, a little more stuff gets organized, and we feel a bit less like squatters and more like people living in a home of our own. We’ll post photos (maybe even a video walk-through, depending on how ambitious I’m feeling) of our new place soon, after we get the pictures and other decorations hung on the walls. We have a lot of wall space in this home, which is both a luxury and a challenge. We’ll figure it all out somehow. Overall, the house is very safe, well-built, clean, comfortable, and in an exceptionally quiet neighborhood. It isn’t perfect (more on that below), but overall we’re quite happy to make this place our home for the next four years.

We didn’t receive the most hospitable welcome, though. We arrived in Atlanta* near the beginning of what has been a nearly two-week death grip of a heat wave, with temperatures regularly topping 100 degrees and a full complement of Southern-style humidity. It was about 103 the day we pulled in. Yeah—hot.

(*—Technically, we live in Acworth, about 22 miles northwest of downtown, but it’s part of the metro Atlanta area, and there are so many little communities here that it’s often easier when talking to outsiders to say, "We live in Atlanta.")

In addition, Cassia and I had ordered a new bed from Sears to be delivered that very same day. At the time we ordered it, the salesman was full of assurances that we’d be able to specify a late afternoon delivery time so that we’d actually be home when it came. Sears called us the day before delivery and gave us an "unchangeable" delivery window of 10:45am-12:45pm. We weren’t pleased about that—we were staying in Nashville for the night and wouldn’t be able to meet with our property agent until 12:30 the next day. Sears did commit to having its delivery agent call us an hour before he was set to arrive, so when we hadn’t received a call by 12:15, we figured there wouldn’t be any scheduling conflict at all.

Then the phone rang. It was the Sears delivery guy, and he was sitting at our house wondering why no one was home. We were about 15 minutes away from our destination, and Cassia pleaded with the guy to wait a few minutes for us while I did my best to keep from driving off the road in my anger. But the call was suddenly and "mysteriously" disconnected, and we couldn’t get him back on the line. (Sears Home Delivery drivers call customers through one of the company’s 1-800 numbers, a return call to which puts you in contact with a CSR, not the driver.) So, we’d missed the delivery window for our bed, and would have to wait until the next day to receive it. Lovely.

That afternoon I spoke with a Sears CSR and explained to her that we had not received the one hour call-ahead as promised. She apologized profusely, said she would contact the delivery supervisor, and as a reprimand for breaching company protocol would order the delivery team to return to our house with our bed before the end of the day. Ah . . . results!

But not quite. The CSR called a few minutes later to say the delivery supervisor was "uninformed" about the call-ahead, while the truck driver claimed he had called us beforehand (an outright fabrication) and we just hadn’t answered. So, her hands were tied, the bed would be delivered tomorrow, and our consolation prize would be a Sears $50 gift card. Wow. Great. (As a side note, don’t you just love it when companies that royally screw up offer you gift cards or discount coupons for more of their products and services? Just give me my flippin’ money back, and maybe I’ll consider buying from you again in the future.)

Thankfully, the moving truck did arrive later that afternoon. ABF’s driver called ahead about 90 minutes before he arrived to let us know he was coming and to confirm someone would be at the house when he arrived ("Where else are we gonna go?", I thought). As hot as it was outside, it was even worse inside the truck, but I had to pull out the kids’ beds so that at least they would have a comfortable place to sleep that night. Beyond that, I didn’t want to do anything more until evening. It was just too darn hot.

We went to IHOP for dinner, as much for the air conditioning and ice cold water as for the good food. (Our waitress must have watched with peculiar amusement as every one of us downed glass after glass after glass of water.) After dinner, we thought we’d head over to the closest McDonald’s for a little soft-serve ice cream and an indoor Play Place for the kids to run around in. "Sorry sir, but our ice cream machine’s broken." All right, back in the car. We head a few miles up the road before we see the next McDonald’s. We pile out and walk into the restaurant.

"Two sundaes, please."

"I’m sorry, but our shake and ice cream machine is broken."

Even though I was exhausted from a very long and difficult day, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to point out the humor of the situation. With a smile I said, "Do you know you’re the second McDonald’s in a row we’ve visited that has a broken ice cream machine?"

In the end we went to Kroger (it’s called Smith’s west of the Rockies) and bought a few prepackaged half gallons of ice cream, then went home and sat on the floor and ate it with plastic spoons in disposable paper bowls. We got the kids in bed at about 11:00, then Cassia and I carried in the longer of our two couches into our living room so she could sleep. I stayed up until 3:00am unloading as much of our stuff as I could (leaving just a handful of two-person items like bookcases, desks, and our washer/dryer). I showered, then slept on the floor for a few hours.

The bed arrived the next day (it never felt more comfortable), helpers from the elders quorum came that afternoon to help with the bigger items, and that evening we went to a "Back to School" ward activity (hey, free food), which was quite possibly the best-attended and most enjoyable ward activity I’ve ever attended. And I’ve been to some pretty good ward activities.

Everyone was just having way too much fun. The cultural hall was decorated with pictures and posters to resemble a classroom, and the tables were covered with butcher paper and stocked with crayons so the kids could draw pictures as they ate. Dinner was served from large stainless steel food service containers by several sisters from the ward dressed up as lunch ladies—with aprons, hair nets (one had even ratted up her hair with curlers), and fly swatters to brush away imaginary flies every few minutes. One woman dishing up the mashed potatoes would slam them down on people’s plates with an exaggerated flair and a hearty chortle. It was hilarious.

Following dinner there were games and prizes galore. There was so much laughing and socializing happening that I don’t think there was a single unhappy person present. It was wonderful, and a welcome relief from the challenges of the past several days.

Speaking of the ward, it’s been terrific. (By the way, I should quickly add that no ward is perfect and you make do where you land. Congregations in the Church run the full range of sizes, attitudes, and people. Our commitment to serve is the same, though, wherever we are. Ask not what your ward can do for you, but what you can do for your ward.) People here have really gone out of their way to welcome us here, and we’ve tried to return the favor by getting heavily involved (or at least signaling our willingness to be involved) in the activities and organizations here. Cassia has already received a calling and will be sustained in sacrament meeting this Sunday (8/26). As for myself, well, there are so many men of maturity and experience here that I don’t expect to be called to anything Big and Important anytime soon. And that’s just fine with me. Interestingly, though, I visited the Atlanta temple yesterday morning and was struck by an intense desire to serve as an ordinance worker. I followed the prompting and filled out an information card and turned it in to the temple president’s secretary before I left. I’m excited to see where this leads.

School officially began on Monday. Georgia State University is located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, just down the road a bit from CNN headquarters on the west and World of Coca-Cola on the east. I take an express coach bus to get there—the Park & Ride is a mile and a half from our house, and it drops me off about two blocks from the business school. The buses are quite comfortable, air-conditioned, with working electrical outlets. They’re also never more than 1/3 full, so there’s plenty of room to stretch out and take a quick nap if I need it. The ride is about 50 minutes each way, so I enjoy using commute time as work (and sleep) time. Downtown parking is horrendously expensive (about $65/month for students), and there’s no guarantee your car will emerge unscathed from random vandals or hit-and-run drivers in the parking garages, so this arrangement allows us to save time, money, and provide Cassia with our one car so she has the freedom to accomplish what she needs to do each day.

The program itself is great. The professors and fellow PhD students are terrific people, and I’ve already made several instant colleagues. Classes meet only once a week for two and a half hours at a time, which means I don’t have to be on campus every day if I don’t want to. I currently have one class on Monday afternoon, two on Wednesday, and one that meets most (but not all) Friday mornings during the semester. Because most of the coursework involves individual reading and research, I’m not hamstrung to accommodate the schedules of my cohort (one other male and one female). Right now we’re experimenting with the "work at home" idea. We set up one of the bedrooms as a dedicated office with my own desk and chair to work at, an arrangement we never had in Provo. It saves us money, which we like. It also frees me up to do ordinance work at the temple on Thursday mornings, which I hope works out. I hope it continues.

The university administrative system here is a joke, however. It’s been one constant bureaucratic nightmare after another. Campus intranet access, wireless Internet access, library access, student IDs, student health insurance, the university hiring process . . . they’re all separate systems with their own intricacies and complications. Some things you do online, some on paper, some in person, some over the phone, and some you wonder how they ever get done at all. Unlike at BYU, there’s not even a semblance of unification of systems and processes. It’s the silo approach to business organization taken to an extreme. Welcome to the state system.

The overall theme we’re finding here in Atlanta is everything just takes longer. Paperwork takes days, if not weeks, to process. Businesses in Acworth-Kennesaw are more spread out, and the road system lacks all logical organization. There are no north-south, east-west roads here; you turn left somewhere, and wherever that road spits you out a mile or two later, there you are. Efficiency as a guide word for doing things is completely tossed out the window. There’s no such thing as a "quick trip" to the gas station, Wal-Mart, or any other shopping center, and people either drive waaaay too slow or 20+ miles over the speed limit. And there’s traffic (and traffic impediments) all the time, day or night. The wisdom of Brother Brigham’s grid-like street system with wide roads becomes more apparent all the time.

Oh yeah. Have I mentioned it’s hot? Our lawn is dying in spite of our efforts to water it, while our neighbors on both sides enjoy green acres without lifting a finger. Let’s hope the utility bills don’t kill us in September. And cooking on a gas stove is an interesting endeavor. Our particular model (it came with the house, ’cause we’d never choose to buy it) has easily accessible knobs from a child’s perspective, and what would usually be under-the-oven storage for pots and pans is actually a drawer which, when opened, reveals the big blue flame heating the oven! So we’re trying to figure out how to baby-proof that.

But no place is perfect, and these are just minor gripes really. Our particular neck of the woods (literally) is so green and forest-like in its surroundings that we hardly miss the dusty brown terrain and smog-trapping mountains of Utah (honestly, one is at first amazed at how green it is here). Our house is great, the ward is wonderful, and the people at Georgia State are terrific. Everything else is simply adjustments.

Welcome to Atlanta, our new home.

One Response to “Home of the Braves . . . and the Beckmans”

  1. CONGRATS!!! I am so happy for you ;) you are so much closer now!

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