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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Do You Honk Your Horn?

About once or twice a year or so, in Juneau, someone honks at me. It's a good thing that it happens so infrequently because I have a violent reaction to it. When a horn honks, it startles me (which is a form of fear) and then I get angry. I have fantasies of stopping my car in traffic and getting out and confronting the driver behind me. I know it would be stupid, but that's what I want to do. Horns are supposed to be used for emergencies only, not when someone behind you is impatient because you are letting pedestrians cross the street rather than run them over. Like the last time someone honked at me.  It was a "get moving" honk because I had stopped to let someone use the crosswalk...

I have heard that accidents occur more frequently in places where people honk more. Is it because it's terrible drivers who frequently resort to the horn or does the honking itself create an atmosphere that leads to accidents?

You may wonder why honking happens so rarely in Juneau. Are we better drivers? Are we more patient drivers? Do we prefer to live at a slower pace?

I don't think it's any of those; perhaps it's the absence of anonymity. With 32,000 people and no roads in or out, it's not easy to be anonymous. You could find yourself honking at your child's teacher, your minister, your client, your neighbor. Now that could be embarrassing. Are we more likely to be well-mannered in the presence of people we know?

But here is something interesting: During a recent trip, my husband and I drove in Washington DC and in Montreal where, in both, anonymity is the norm. Yet in DC, drivers honked continually, but we heard hardly any at all in Montreal, another large city. That was surprising.

What I have noticed is that honking is a form of judgment. It is used for scolding, not for emergencies. There is no compassion in it. And I sure don't have compassionate thoughts when I am being honked at. I don't have compassionate thoughts when someone else is being honked at either. I immediately sink to a lower spiritual level. Loud noises destroy public peace - and my peace. I would vote for it to be outlawed.

1 comment:

  1. good damnation of an offensive behaviour!Glad you got that out of your system, Bridget!

    I had to learn that here in Wanaka, people honk to say hello and goodbye...totally surprised by how the horn is used in greeting and leaving. People back out of our drive, straighten their car and honk! A strange habit for me to get used to...don't think it happens like that in bigger cities though. We're less than 7,000 here. Wonder if living here would change your attitude toward honking or if your reaction is too visceral to be extinguished!