Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Reruns: Quit Your Honking!

(original post-date: August 18, 2010)

Having lived – and therefore driven – in Los Angeles for 20 years, I’ve developed some serious ‘tude behind the wheel.

I know that friends who have ridden with me will question that statement, and I don’t blame them. Fact of the matter is, when I have a passenger, I drive much more cautiously (and therefore rarely reveal my ‘tude.) …I don’t know, maybe it’s some kind of hang-up. Something to do with feeling responsibility for another life. (I guess I’m quirky that way.)

BUT: most of the driving I do, I do alone, and so most of the time, I am as willing as the next reasonable person to take a few highly calculated risks.

However, when the driver behind me suggests, through the honking of a horn, that I take a risk I am not willing to take, I am tempted to throw it all into park and pull out a picnic lunch.

Seriously. Do NOT tell me I should make the left now.

Just. Don’t.

I witnessed someone dealing with this type of dilemma last week – as I was driving on Hollywood Boulevard, heading west. I had just approached the LaBrea intersection, which comprises at least two times as many lanes as exist on most interstates in our country’s heartland. I was first at the red light, middle lane, when I saw what was happening to the poor soul in the left-turn lane of LaBrea’s northbound traffic. The car behind him had honked intrusively, telling the driver at the front of the pack that he should go now. And so, while the driver at the front responded to that honk by moving forward by about six feet, he clearly concluded – after making that honk-inspired move – that, in fact, it wasn’t safe to proceed at that moment.

And so he became stuck between a rock and a hard place. The rock was the aggressive driver behind him who kept honking. The hard place was the east- and west-bound traffic that had now been given the literal green light to move along.

As I made my way across LaBrea (part of the privileged green-lit traffic), I really felt for the guy who had allowed the driver behind him to push him into traffic. And with that aggression at his rear, he had no options for backing up. He just had to remain there – stuck out and at risk of being hit – until the lights changed once again. I detested the guy behind him who so resented being second in line for a left turn. A part of me wanted to stop my car in the middle of the intersection, get out of it, and scold that honking bully! (But that’s a whole other risk, and I’m not stupid.)

I’m also not saying that car horns are without merit. In fact, just two or so years into my L.A. experience, when I was driving a pre-owned Civic, I became quite alarmed when I realized my horn wasn’t working. As a co-worker (who had grown up out here) agreed, “That’s a safety hazard!”

Damn right it is. The horn is an essential tool. There have been dozens of times when I have used it to alert someone to my presence and so to avoid the meeting of metal. It’s my way of telling someone who is being inattentive that this lane is already taken.

In fact, I think that’s the best way to describe the use of a car horn: to alert the inattentive. And sure, I’ve also been on the receiving end of that alert. I actually appreciate it when the car behind me taps quickly to let me know that the light has changed. In the event that I didn’t notice, that alert is helpful.

But: when the car behind me uses its horn to inspire a risk-taking move? Nothing is more likely to make me take my sweet, sweet time…

Hmm… as long as I’m talking about driving, I might as well use this post to share something I do that I consider the best way to secure one’s safety on the freeway (or whatever highly traveled roads are in your neck of the woods). I don’t remember anymore if this is something I came up with or if it is a lesson I learned from someone else. Regardless, it works like a charm, and it works like this:

If you are in heavy traffic and you see that, ahead of you, the traffic is slowing considerably, turn on your hazard lights. The car behind you will immediately begin to slow down. This tip also is great if someone is riding your ass. There is nothing like the blink-blink-blink of the hazard lights to turn that ass-rider’s aggression into “ooh, don’t wanna be near this problem!”

I’m telling you, in these 20 years of driving in L.A., I’ve figured some things out. And one of them is this: power steering isn’t something that comes with your car; it’s what you bring to the road.

Just be sure the power you are looking for comes from a desire for safety, ‘cause if you’re seeking something else – say, a compensation for bedroom failings or a desire to chew out your boss – well then, I got three words for you: QUIT YOUR HONKING!


Sarah Pearson said...

Mostly, not being able to drive frustrates me, but just occasionally I'm glad :)

Anonymous said...

Loved this one first time round and now love it again. My favourite bit the penultimate paragraph:
"power steering isn’t something that comes with your car; it’s what you bring to the road"

How profound! We don't have left turns at red lights (or right turns at red lights come to that) here but my one experience of driving alone in California - I was treated to that honking. Well, I just didn't realise I was allowed to turn on a red light for goodness sake! Needless to say, I went when I thought it safe and not before. :-)

Raquel Byrnes said...

Hey there. Wanted to stop in as a fellow campaigner and say hello.
Edge of Your Seat Romance

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Katie, nice to connect with you today!

I think cars should come with a "Chill Out" button. It's scary how people take their aggression and channel it into their driving.

Michael Offutt said...

Thanks for following my blog. Returning the favor from the campaign and I look forward to getting to know more about you :) What a handsome blog you have hehe.

Oh and I love the drivers in L.A. Here in Salt Lake City, they are terrible...I MEAN TERRIBLE. Inconsiderate, rude, you name it. When I was in L.A. stuck in monster traffic, I thought...this sucks. Then I needed to change lanes and turned on my blinker. Lo and behold I was astounded, THE CARS LET ME IN. That doesn't happen in SLC. They flip you off and screw you out of the lane you need to be in.

I will take your monster traffic and courteous drivers any day over those here that think they own the road.

Linda Medrano said...

That sort of aggressive horn blowing is infuriating. The thing is, yeah, if somebody just sits there after the light turns green, toot at them. But the other stuff is just uncalled for.

Anonymous said...

It's funny - I don't drive, and yet I have a ton of stories about rude drivers just like the honker in your post! Gak...

Thanks for stopping by my blog - I look forward to campaigning with you! :-)

mooderino said...

Hello fellow campaigner,

I live in the UK so I think part of yur problem is you all drive on the wrong side of the road.
Moody Writing

E.R. King said...

You always make me laugh. I'm the same way, nothing prompts me to take my sweet, sweet time faster than being honked at. So funny. Thanks, Katie!

alberta ross said...

I agree -wrong side of road and strange turning on red lights caught me so often whenout there - I have trouble rememering where my horn is but then I have left city traffic behind and live and drive in the sticks of UK - our greatest excitment is when someone doesnt know yet! how to manage a roundabout - for goodness sake- our little town just doesnt get it!!!

Glad to meet you on Rachaels campaigning trail - look forward to more of your blogs

Marlena Cassidy said...

When I was learning how to drive (in a giant truck no less) another giant truck pulled up behind me at a stop sign and made threatening creeping movements toward my back bumper. I fled like a baby. My father then proceeded to rip me a new one about how I had to respect myself on the road and how I couldn't drive if I was going to be so damn shy all the time. It was hard to deal with it at the time (because the truck, the other giant truck, and my father were scary), but it's great advice that I've taken to heart. You have to respect yourself when you drive and not take crap from other drivers.

Liz said...

Nice to meet you fellow campaigner!

Linda O'Connell said...

Thanks for your comments on my blog. I completely agree with you!!! Can you believe that in a neighboring town, in 2012, the KKK were recruiting members today?

Sioux said...

Katie--I'm like you. I am more vocal when I drive by myself. And less cautious.

I agree. People are often obnoxious when they get behind the wheel. The horn is not meant to take the place of a middle finger...

Anonymous said...

I can just imagine how bad the traffic is in LA - I've been in it only twice, and both were the terrible. But sounds like you've got a system:) Popping in to say hi as a fellow campaigner and look forward to getting to know you:)

Lanita said...

Pulling up on my ass and acting all impatient is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. That's when I usually slow down to one mile under the speed limit and let them fume behind me. I never thought of the hazard lights idea. I will have to give that a try next time someone hugs my bumper a bit too close.

The Golden Eagle said...

I can't drive, though it would be handy to be able to, but at least I don't have to worry about all the honking and traffic . . . yet. :P

Thank you for coming by my blog! Looking forward to Campaigning with you. :)

L'Aussie said...

Fellow campaigner here! Thanks for finding me. If I ever get to L A I'll stay off the road, ha ha.


Anonymous said...

Hi! Thank you for visiting my site :-)
I am so glad I visited your site, I got so involved reading your posts, great writing!
I am also one who has a 'tude when driving but not so much when I have others with me. I hate when someone tailgates me. I don't use the blinker thing you suggested (but great idea), instead I slam on the brakes. I know bad me.

junebug said...

I agree! We were just talking about it yesterday because a guy honked at me as the the light was turning green. I always look both ways because in GA people constantly run lights and at this particular intersection I've watched Semis run this light. I'm not venturing out until I'm sure the other vehicles are at least slowing down. I only honk in case of extreme emergency. Once I honked because this dude missed one cycle of a green light so when it came around the second time I honked. (I might have been in an overly polite mood that day.) Love your suggestion on the hazard lights! Normally when I see this happening I tap on my brake lights so people coming up behind me notice flashing lights. Looking forward to the Campaign! I'm off to check out your sister's site - Thanks for the recommendation. I do love Scotland.