I’m stuck in Nashville traffic. And so, apparently, is everyone else in the Western Hemisphere.
Nashville scares me. The main culprit here is the highways. Nashville’s highway system is a mess because these roads were built to accommodate approximately 11 cars, whereas there are currently 229 trillion Nashville residents.
So this is a problem. A big one. Because right now I am idling in a thousand-mile line of cars, stuck in a cloud of blue exhaust, and we are moving approximately one nanometer per hour.
I think I’ve figured out the problem in this city. The problem is, everyone in the state of Tennessee is trying to use the interstate at the same time. Which is a bad idea, this is just common sense.
If we all tried to take a shower at the same time each morning, the world would run out of water. It’s the same principle. A plus B equals C.
But the traffic problem isn’t getting any better. Because nobody is doing anything about it except buying more electric cars.
Tennessee Department of Transportation reports that, on any average afternoon, in Davidson County, there are strings of electric cars longer than the ladies-restroom line at a George Strait concert.
If you took all the electric cars in the world and placed them end to end, you’d have Nashville.
“The traffic is really hard,” says my friend who lives outside Nashville and commutes to work. Each morning, he spends 120 minutes in his SUV, fighting hundreds of motorists just backing out of his driveway.
He wants a new job, but of course, there are no new jobs in Nashville, only new buildings. Because new construction is out of control here.
Nashville is one of the leading cites in the nation for adding new real estate. In the time it’s taken you to read these paragraphs, Nashville has already built two arenas and one NASCAR súper-speedway.
And they still have billions of dollars of new projects on the way. The skyline changes almost daily.
Things have gotten so bad construction-wise that as soon as one new structure is built, demolition crews arrive to tear the building down so they can begin erecting a new triplex in its place.
This town’s slogan should be “Boom!” Because that’s the only noise you ever hear. In fact, while writing this very sentence, sitting in traffic, I was interrupted by several loud construction booms.
But that’s nothing. Because bachelorette parties are the main issue facing Nashville. Bachelorettes are huge business in this town.
“Nashville is one giant bachelorette party,” said one policeman. “Yesterday, I walked into a restaurant responding to a call, and the hostess asked if I was the stripper for the private party.”
It’s true. Bachelorette parties are pretty annoying. I was downtown yesterday and I counted 39 party busses filled with bachelorette partiers. These party busses are everywhere in Nashville.
Although, in my opinion, they aren’t nearly as worrisome as the pedal tavern (sometimes called “pedal pubs,” “party bikes,” “bike bars,” or “concussion machines”).
A pedal tavern is a multi-passenger human powered vehicle. Think of it as a giant bicycle. There’s no engine, just the legs of passengers who are sitting around a bar, facing each other, singing “Sweet Caroline” and tossing back vodka gimlets.
A pedal tavern’s top speed is around 5 mph. But most of the time, they travel about the same speed as a municipal fire hydrant.
Usually these taverns come loaded with about 20 screaming people. If it’s a bachelorette party, they will all be wearing tiaras, feather boas, fashionable boots, and matching T-shirts. Often times, they will be howling swear words at passing vehicles while sloshing beer onto nearby police officers who are busy writing parking tickets to redheaded columnists.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike Nashville. In fact, I like it here. This city is young, hip, exciting, and the music is pretty good. But none of these things I like are the real Nashville, according to my sources.
“If you want to experience the real Nashville,” one city official told me, “just hop on I-24, I40, I-65, or 440. That’s where everyone in Nashville lives most of their lives anyway.”
Kathleen Jun Magyar - November 20, 2022 7:12 am
Hi, Sean. For what it’s worth, the plural of bus is buses. Busses are kisses.
Vickie - November 21, 2022 7:51 pm
Nazem Nassar - November 20, 2022 8:23 am
I would like to keep the pleasant picture and knowledge of beloved Nashville 40 years ago!
Awesome picture I would like to keep!
I guess technology goes hand in hand with rising population and expansion. I mean for any new construction project, there is a study of long term traffic Impact on plans and design of such projects!
Genevieve Martin - November 21, 2022 2:15 am
i agree. good memories
Scott Sovereign - November 20, 2022 8:30 am
“just hop on I-24, I40, I-65…”. And that’s that’s the problem with Nashville traffic. Each of these Interstate highways share common roadway with each of the others at some point, typically close to downtown. That’s because nothing can be built here without having to blast rock, so I guess it was easier to use the same roadbeds where they could rather then keeping each of these highways separate. The same goes for how the entry and exit ramps are placed for the same reason. The result is constant merging, It was the first thing I noticed when we moved here from Lower Alabama 21 years ago and has only gotten many magnitudes worse as Nashville has continued to grow in reputation as an “it” city.
Ed (Bear) - November 20, 2022 9:47 am
Thanks Sean! Your point is well received. I laughed, I cried, and after using an Oxford comma, I think I know what the root cause of traffic jams might be. You sort of hit on the problem in your column. I think our traffic jams are caused by sex. Babies will eventually want their own interstate vehicles. They also inevitably eventually party with other growing babies. I think the solution lies in responsible intimate contact constraint. Someone just needs to discover a more intriguing pastime for these innocent young babies than kissing the opposite sex. But alas, I’m afraid that I’m personally at a loss for what that more intriguing alternative pastime might be. Maybe your readers have some ideas?
Linda - November 20, 2022 10:52 am
This is pretty much like it is there …
Jeff Robertson - November 20, 2022 12:08 pm
My former boss took me and a couple co-workers to Nashville in the late 90’s. I live in a small small town in Eastern Kentucky and we went to Bowling Green for a logging convention but he wanted to go to Nashville so off we went. I had no idea Nashville was so big! We stayed at the hugely overpriced Opryland hotel as it was called then. We walked to the Opry House and got to see some of the old timers like Porter and Minnie and of course, Grandpa Jones. We decided we wanted to go to a bar after that so we got a taxi and asked the cabbie too take us to a good bar. The cab driver was of Middle East decent and spoke poor English and drove like a mad man. Enroute to it destination we ended up on the interstate, in a huge traffic jam. All four of us sat in the back of his car and held on for dear life as he darted in front of cars and I can only assume, cursing in his native language and shaking his fist at other drivers. After an eternity we ended up at the head of this alley where he parked the car and he said that we would have to walk the rest of the way. While he is leading us through this dark alley between buildings, I am just waiting for someone to walk out of the shadows and mug us but we emerged on this brick paved street with bar after bar on both sided of the street. As we walked by each packed bar, you could hear live music and the overpowering smell of booze. It was a night to remember, but I would never want to do redo that night again. I will just stay in Kentucky.
Joy Jacobs - November 20, 2022 12:22 pm
My first trip to Nashville was in 1982. Traffic was awful even then, years before it became “bachelorette central”.
Jill - November 20, 2022 12:42 pm
Huntsville AL is soon catching up. I no longer recognize my hometown as I exit the country roads of Tennessee onto the interstate. I sure do miss it. Just as I miss Nashville. I fear most cities are becoming boom town as you say. I might add if you don’t mind a certain air of vulgarity with no heart. I wouldn’t trade Cowan for it under any circumstances. On Thanksgiving Day, we are hosting a community day for those without family. Providing winter coats, socks and such too. Wonder if all those people on the interstate have time?
mccutchen52 - November 20, 2022 12:53 pm
Sounds like Atlanta but of course I live south of Atlanta in what they call Metro Atlanta. Traffic and everything else is bad so everyone wants to move out so now between warehouses, apartments, zero lot line townhomes and other living areas everything, like Nashville, has grown except the infrastructure. Most of our roads and streets are two lanes so everyone is on them at the same time trying to get home or get to work. That is unless there is a wreck on the interstate then everyone along with everyone else is jamming up our streets so bad if you need to go to the store you might as well forget it. They keep telling us they are going to expand our main roads and highways to four lane. I will never see it. Off my soap box now.
Janice carlile - November 20, 2022 1:00 pm
Sounds amazingly like Atlanta…..says a native who lives in Marietta.
chris - November 20, 2022 1:08 pm
born and raised 60 years….love my city but I would roll it back about 15 years and be perfectly happy. I am a hunting and fishing guide so tourists are good but it is groaning under the load of people
Randy Jones - November 20, 2022 1:27 pm
I’ve heard friends it “ Crashville” instead of Nashville .
Harold Lenz - November 20, 2022 2:35 pm
Nashville is a “hoot”. Great place for blood pressure increase. Yes the interstates are a nightmare for out of town folks. Have a great day.
Philip Dunson - November 21, 2022 6:12 am
Interstate are a night mare for locals to not just out of town folks.
Paul Alge - November 20, 2022 3:11 pm
Yep I live here. The trick is knowing your territory. I have ways of getting where I want to get that usually don’t involve the interstate. Once you learn your way around it’s better. But it took a few years If your just passing through and if you only go downtown where all the tourist are your not really seeing the better things. If you hook up with a person that can show you the cool places you’ll have a good time. What I dislike more is riding that terrible beat up concrete section of I 65 through Birmingham. It’s frightening.
Fred Frederick - November 20, 2022 4:01 pm
Nashville is having growing pains for sure!
Jerry McCloud - November 20, 2022 4:01 pm
Welcome to my world…. I love country music 🎶 and slumming on Broadway.
Ed Riley - November 20, 2022 4:32 pm
Amen, I wonder what happened daily all the nasiley sounding folks with absolutely no southern dialect. I hope the last true southern Tennessean brings the flag when they leave that place!
Cindy - November 20, 2022 4:47 pm
Lol 😂 You are so right. We liked being named the ‘It’ City until ‘It’ meant Stephen King. Insane traffic. Downtown a carnival funhouse with music blaring from rowdy bars and vehicles pulling herds of Woo! Girls in Daisy Dukes and boots. Housing and drink prices on Broadway those of NYC but we are not NYC. I want one of those ‘R. I.P. Old Nashville’ shirts for Christmas.
Dee Thompson - November 20, 2022 5:06 pm
Nashville is a blissful oasis of traffic fun compared to Atlanta traffic. [Yes, I live in Atlanta.] Plus Nashville has people wearing cowboy hats, hot chicken, and future country music stars taking your orders in restaurants. Hey, just FYI, I know your lovely wife is a fantastic cook but not everyone is so if you know anyone who doesn’t like to cook, pass this along: https://deescribbler.typepad.com/my_weblog/2022/11/thanksgiving-dinner-for-people-who-dont-cook.html
Karen - November 20, 2022 10:26 pm
Sean, you nailed it. this is hilarious.
Sharon - November 20, 2022 10:43 pm
yes you hit on all the downsides of our very sudden growth. However, leaving the center, as the policeman said, is what “we” all do, living in our still smaller, local-er towns and cities.
Cupcake - November 20, 2022 11:02 pm
I moved there in 1995, the interstate system has not changed! Archaic with the amount of people that now live there. Nashville needs to follow Dallas in their interstate system; 5 lanes, side roads, roads built over other bypasses & under, and HOV lanes. I moved away; big failure to the people of Nashville who deserve better.
pattontriune - November 20, 2022 11:34 pm
I’m 85 and visited family in Williamson Co all these years. I lived in Nashville 1964-66 while in grad school. In 2000 we retired to the 2nd century farm I had been visiting, Nashville is NOT the city I attended grad school in, nor is it the city I would go into after retirement. Fortunately I can pick the times I go in to the city and I know alternatives if the interstates are blocked. What bothers me the most is my rural setting is fast becoming suburban/urban as farm around me become subdivisions. Now there’s too much traffic on the rural roads. And I seldom hear “Y’all.” So many non-southerners live here it has become “you guys!” So y’all are welcome to come visit, but please don’t plan on staying!!!
Darleen Gordon Mattes - November 21, 2022 12:23 am
I believe Memphis is much worse, along with it’s neighboring state/city, Southhaven, Ms.
I used to live north of Memphis near Arlington, Tn. Last week we were traveling across country from Arizona to our new home in Alabama. Lordy! I almost had three wrecks going into and through Memphis and Southhaven. It was nerve wracking!
Patricia Winters - November 21, 2022 1:47 am
Dear Sean, I enjoy your columns very much. So much, in fact, that I copy them to Facebook, make minor grammar and spelling changes, and post them so that my friends can also enjoy them. I hope you don’t mind. I also have purchased two of your excellent books. Please keep up the excellent work. You are a national treasure. Patti W.
Jonathan - November 21, 2022 6:43 pm
Just want to say that I cried very hard laughing at this.
LeAnn Duncan - November 21, 2022 7:52 pm
I made it three years in the commute on I-24 to downtown daily—that’s all my heart could take. As much as I loved the people, the atmosphere, the job—I just couldn’t deal with the traffic. So, I packed it up and transferred home to East TN…Knoxville is also growing at an astounding pace, but there is nothing I’ve ever experienced like the daily grind that is the traffic in Nashville. And let’s not ever discuss how bad it gets during CMA fest and CMA awards!
Carol Parriott - November 21, 2022 9:40 pm
Sean, you hit the nail on the head. I try to stay away from downtown Nashville. The traffic on the interstates is ridiculous. Oh and if there is an accident or a car with mechanical problems, you might as well take a book out and read it as you will be sitting at a stand still for a while.
Diane Crabtree - November 22, 2022 5:26 am
I never knew Bachelorette vehicles came in so many varieties. In addition to the Pedal Taverns you reference I’ve seen flatbed trucks, monster trucks and tow trucks bedazzled in shades of pink and purple looking like bizarrely-booze-soaked homecoming floats. Those ear-piercing screams are matched only by Titans fans cranking up the decibels when the visiting team is on the scrimmage line. God deliver us from Lower Broad and the Broads that flock there every weekend.
Susan - November 22, 2022 6:05 pm
You hit the nail on the head when describing Nashville. I live in an adjacent county & HATE driving ‘into town.’ The interstate system is broken
But there is so much here to love: the people are nice, the symphony is fabulous and Preds games are so much fun.