1. You’ve forgotten what a real dive bar is.
Chattanooga is cluttered with bars infested by either the type of people you avoided in high school or the actual people you avoided in high school. People at these places will gladly pay for an overpriced cup of Hunch Punch with full knowledge that the same shitty concoction is being brewed in a bathtub by a bunch of frat guys down the street. They’re the the breed who floods your Instagram with filtered group photos posed in front of expensively tacky wall decorations. They invade your Facebook wall with rave reviews of the “dive bar scene” — about places established seven months ago.
2. But then again, you’re spending way too much time at Lamar’s.
Lamar’s: the much less-frequented, hourly-rented motel bar with a seven-month-old happy birthday sign pinned against velvet wallpaper. It’s where you walk past the “NO FOREPLAY” sign on the front door and have a seat at one of the candlelit tables covered in a questionable powder. The bartender, before hearing your order, brings out a round of water in preparation for the strongest Long Island Iced Tea you’ll ever drink. You’re in love with this place — and it might be getting a little unhealthy.
3. Everyone you want to be hungover with on Sunday is at church.
Chattanooga was voted America’s Most Bible-Minded City in 2014. This means you oftentimes have to defend your choice in spending Sunday morning hungover in bed eating to-go Waffle House rather than sulking at a stiff pew for an hour and throwing back a shot of red wine that couldn’t even get a chihuahua buzzed. There’s also the chance you’ll have to explain to others why you think spending $700,000 on a 125-foot-tall cross just may have been a poor financial decision.
4. You’re starting to take the Coca-Cola debate personally.
Chattanooga is home to the first Coca-Cola bottling company. Atlanta is home to the Coca-Cola recipe. It’s settled.
5. And the whole “people who live on the mountain” thing is really starting to piss you off too.
If you’ve lived in Chattanooga for any length of time, it won’t take long for you to notice the “mountain mentality” way of thinking. This includes the idea that those of us who don’t live on the mountain should all bow down to those who do, and shout praises that go a little something like “All hail ye Royalty of Lookout Mountain! Us valley peasants are blessed to cower in ye shadows!”
6. You’re not sure what “progressive” means anymore.
On one hand, you live in one of the only places on Earth with internet as fast as 1 gigabyte per second. On the other hand, you have a state representative that sponsored a bill making the consumption of roadkill meat, or “flattened fauna” as the fancy folk call it, totally legal.
7. You’ve lost all connection to the concept of time.
Depending on where you are in the surrounding Chattanooga area, sometimes you’re in the Eastern Time Zone, while sometimes you’re in the Central. And sometimes, for the lucky ones, your house is on the border of both where simply leaning in one direction puts you an hour back. It’s like Groundhog Day but for Daylight Savings Time.
8. You’ve accepted constant foul smells to be the norm.
If it’s not the looming stench of a filthy river, it’s the aroma of wet, soggy poultry from the chicken-processing plant. Sure, there may be subtle hints of Americanized Mongolian food wafting around, but getting a whiff of what smells like the inside of a perpetually moist sock is pretty much an appetite slayer for anyone.
9. The sound of the Market Street Bridge is eating away at your sanity.
You know what sound I’m talking about — those three, dull vibrations you hear as tires tread along the steel truss of the central draw span. In other words, it’s Chattanooga summed up in a sound in which you feel obligated to form an emotional connection with. If you drive over it enough or spend any amount of time downtown, you’ll find yourself humming the bridge’s magnetic tune at three in the morning until you realize it’s simply Chattanooga’s diabolical plan to hypnotize all its citizens into thinking it’s the greatest place on Earth.
You aren’t fooled anymore.
10. Plus, you can no longer say your city has the world’s longest pedestrian bridge.
Poughkeepsie, New York took over that title when it built a bridge 4,393-feet longer than the Walnut Street Bridge in Chattanooga. It’s time to get the hell out.