His job is navigating the waking nightmare that is Atlanta's rush hour.
His business card reads Hero Operator, and his affability amid the blinking red lights, growl of tread on road and mornings of broken-down vehicles certainly qualify him as a hero of some sort.
Tumlin, whose face is roundish and mustached and topped with dense light-brown hair, drives the state DOT's familiar yellow Highway Emergency Response Operator trucks around Atlanta's main arteries. Today, the route takes him up and down the Downtown Connector.
A small cardboard picture of an angel hangs from his rearview mirror.
Tumlin's job is to patrol for broken-down or stalled vehicles, administer first aid if he makes it to the scene of a crash first and direct traffic flow at accident scenes. The starting salary is $22,000.
"I love coming to work in the morning," Tumlin says. His voice is thin molasses, native Georgian. "I don't think there's anything else I'd rather be doing." Then he pauses. "Except hunting and fishing, but that's not too profitable."
Tumlin, who is a trained EMT and a former firefighter, likes the interaction and the adrenaline rush of being first on the scene of an accident.
On an average day, his truck covers 150 to 200 miles. That translates conservatively to 37,500 miles per year. The 42 miles Tumlin drives each way to work every day from Cumming add another 21,000 miles behind the wheel annually.
With the endless miles, one might guess Tumlin comes down nearly every day with an apoplectic case of road rage. Not so.
"I'm not in any hurry," Tumlin says. His job is to patrol. "If you're in a hurry to get somewhere, you'll miss something."
During 1999, the 44 HERO operators answered 34,932 incidents, 5,928 of which were accidents. The rest were assists -- which could mean anything from helping move a stalled car off the road to delivering a baby to encouraging fornicating couples to move along.
"One guy had the audacity to ask me if he could finish up," Tumlin says. "I said, 'No, maybe it would be a good idea if you put your clothes back on and got to a hotel.'"
Today's rush hour provides little challenge. At 7:03, he stops for a Chevy Silverado driven by Michael Tate of Riverdale.
Someone whacked Tate's truck in the bumper and had him pull onto the left shoulder of 75/85 northbound, and then took off. Tumlin's truck acts as a shield for Tate as they cross four lanes of traffic to get to the right shoulder and wait for a cop.
If he could wave a magic wand over Atlanta drivers, Tumlin says two things would happen. People behind the wheel would actually concentrate on driving -- they'd put down their cell phones and cigarettes and fold up the morning paper. And they would slow down.
"That would save a lot of grief."
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