Honk if you're a honker

Hi, my name is David, and I'm a honker. 200px-Motormaniaposter.jpg

To be frank, I'm not sure this is a problem. I don't honk alone, and I can live without it. You'll never catch me laying on the horn when I drive by someone holding a "Honk if you love ... whatever" sign, though I always hit a few staccato bursts when I'm in a tunnel. But that's just superstition, like lifting your feet when your car goes over railroad tracks so your girl or boyfriend won't break up with you. (Do you think my therapist is right when she says it's bad luck to be superstitious?)

Honking IS annoying. I'd rather not. I would prefer a scrolling mini crawl board on my front windshield that the driver in front of me could read in his rearview mirror. But then he/she wouldn't be paying attention to the road, and I'd be texting while driving. Sigh.

Once, I used to indicate my displeasure with a familiar hand/finger gesture, but my wife made it clear way back then that she didn't think it wise to provoke unwanted gunplay. She had a point, even though this was Los Angeles and not Baghdad. Many years ago I had flipped off an offending driver, and he followed me for blocks shouting, "You give me the finger? You think I am a woman?" Wonder what his issues were?

It could be worse. I once read a sci-fi story . . . don't remember the author . . . but it was about how in the future all cars would be armored, and pack machine guns behind the headlights, and small missiles to blow up other cars in the way. (Sorta like "Mad Max" if Max was a cigar-chomping producer in his Hummer.) Part of the story took place on the southbound Burbank Blvd on ramp to the 405. I never use it anymore; I think you understand why.

There are many varieties of honking; it almost qualifies as a language. A long bray, often repeated, shows frustration. Think of being in a NYC cab, stuck in cross-mid-town traffic while fifty cabbies ahead blare in concert at a double-parked truck a block away, as if the combined cacophony would shame the offending driver into vanishing into thin air. Closer to home? How about being cornered in a jammed parking lot after a rock concert? Or on the PCH some perfect sunny summer weekend. (Or just rush hour.)

That's not how I roll (or don't roll, if you get my drift.) What's the point? I'm not about impatience when it's obvious I'm powerless.

Mostly I honk politely, in short single or double bursts. "Hey, the left turn arrow is green." "Hey, do you mind closing the car length gap between yourself and the car ahead of you on this short freeway on ramp so my trunk doesn't have to hang out in traffic? It's not like I tried to squeeze in at the last moment. There is plenty of room."

Sometimes the situation requires more, like when a driver wants to switch lanes and try to occupy the exact space-time coordinates that I do. Earth to driver. Wake up!

These days I honk more and more, and I don't mind saying it's not me, it's you.

On your cell phone (in one hand), wheel in the other, slowing traffic, drifting into my lane? Honk. On the freeway? Honk. Honk.

Refuse to pull out into the intersection for your left turn, meaning only you will get through the light? Honk.

Going 20 mph on Ventura Blvd in the left lane, while the driver in the right lane goes the same speed, thus trapping everyone behind you at parade pace? Honk.

Insist on racing through the yellow/red where my street intersects with Ventura Boulevard, as I watch, waiting for the green, realizing that had I pulled out normally you would have broadsided me, and killed a few people waiting at the bus stop, too? Honk. The bird, too.

What about those big white painted letters KEEP CLEAR, don't you understand? I'm trying to make a left turn here against a flood-swollen Mississippi River of traffic. Honk!

Did you have to be the last person to make a left through the light where Riverside meets Van Nuys Blvd, so that you block all the southbound traffic. What's the hurry? Honk.

Cutting in front of me on the freeway without signaling? Honk. Do it again? Honk.

You, in front of me, about to sideswipe the car next to you because you're not PAYING ATTENTION. Honk. Wake up!

Gesticulating wildly in the driver's seat either at your passenger or whoever's on the phone? Honk.

You, sauntering along the crosswalk, talking on your cell phone, when there's a line of cars trying to make a turn and you could maybe hurry it up a little bit. Honk. (Seniors, anyone with a walker, aliens from another galaxy excepted.)

Ever notice how whenever you want to make a left turn from the middle turn lane into a driveway, after the opposing traffic flow FINALLY clears, that there's always someone walking across that driveway just then? I don't honk. The universe works in mysterious ways.

And speaking about that specific middle turn lane: could you just pull ALL THE WAY in, parallel to the yellow lines. Your tail does not have to block half the left lane. Get out the way.

Afraid to pass the big truck in the other lane? Come on ...

Finally: you, climbing up my butt by following too close? Haven't got a horn for that, but I wish I had a "Back off M*****f***er" sign that flipped up in my rear window. If you're paying any attention maybe you'll see my hand waving you back. No, I'm not just saying hi -- though when you're courteous or generous, I'll always wave "thanks."

I understand uncertainty, new, and senior drivers. Sometimes your GPS unit is speaking in that weird German dominatrix voice you thought would be cute and amuse your friends -- and you will pay attention. There are many exceptions. Some days I just don't give a damn and calm envelopes me like an envelope of ... calm. I've been here long enough to accept that the California dream of the open road is ruined, at least within the city limits. And honestly, other than wishing it only took a real ten minutes on the 101 to get from the West Valley to the East Valley instead of 45 minutes - and worse at rush hour - I'm not in a hurry to get anywhere fast. I leave a half hour earlier. I'd rather get there safely.

I figure if you're in such a hurry, or are putting on your makeup/combing your hair/shaving/texting/arguing/popping zits/flossing, etc you are welcome to get to the accident before me.

I'm just trying to avoid one.

Honk if you agree.

*I've been away from Native Intelligence much of the summer; not driving, though. I've been watching in awe as my son Emmett, and his college roommate, Alex - both will be 19 yr old sophomores at the University of Chicago this September - finished writing TWITTERATURE: The World's Greatest Works in Twenty Tweets or Less, their humor book for Penguin Classics (US) and Viking/Penguin (UK). You'll be hearing much more about it and them in Oct/Nov/Dec -- and not only from me.


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