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I Don't Scream at Every Car That Passes Me

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Wildly Exaggerated: I Don't Scream at Every Car That Passes Me

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I Don't Scream at Every Car That Passes Me

I hate exercise. The one and only form of exercise I can stand is walking. I can walk for hours, usually because I got caught up thinking about something and subsequently got lost. And over my many many years of recreational walking on the roads and sidewalks of the Southeast, I've come across a phenomenon I cannot begin to understand. I'm hoping someone out there can help me out:

Why do some drivers honk when they pass someone walking on the sidewalk? WHY?

This has happened to me about a billion times (see green blog title at top of page), and the only message I've gleaned from it is: "I AM DRIVING AND YOU ARE WALKING ON THE SIDEWALK SO I THOUGHT I'D HONK!" I've thought about this off and on for years (literally), and I've tried to imagine what these people are trying to communicate. Here are the ideas I've had so far, as well as my arguments as to why they weren't worth saying (or rather, honking):

- "Hello!" To the driver, this is perhaps the equivalent of the friendly nod and smile they would've given me had we crossed paths while both walking on the sidewalk. Except of course that car horns are designed to express either warning or anger, therefore draining a "greeting" attempt of any warmth or friendliness and imbuing it instead with the abject terror of a completely unexpected/unnecessary car horn SCREAMING at me. As an added bonus, it interrupts any useful thought process in which I might've been engaged, and leaves me trying to walk off the shakes of an adrenaline rush for the next 20 minutes.

- "Hey baby, you're hot!" Well, no. No I'm not. And even if the driver had the strangest taste on Earth and did find me hot, this still wouldn't be a viable message, as I've found that the driver is never - EVER - looking at me, much less making eye contact. Their eyes are always fixed on the road and their faces expressionless. So that option's out. Dammit.

- "You have toilet paper on your shoe/your underwear is showing/there's a dead bird on your back/etc." I always check right after the incident, and have yet to discover any embarrassing aspect of my appearance that might have prompted a honk. And even if I had, this would be the equivalent of making a jumbotron announcement when a whisper would've been more appropriate. So the driver would still be a jerk.

- "My horn works!" My family moved to the icy, lifeless tundra of Illinois for a year when I was 12. On the first day of school, my mother's car horn went off and wouldn't stop. The cold had affected the fuse somehow, and nothing would shut it up. Exasperated, and with 2 anxious, freezing kids in the car, my mom cut the wires to the horn (a feat that impresses me to this day, as I would have NO CLUE where to find said wires in any car, ever). Just as she got in to drive away, our helpful neighbor the state trooper came out and informed her that it's illegal to drive with a non-functional horn. I like to imagine that these drivers have picked up on my natural aura of authority and mystery, determined that I might be an undercover agent verifying that people's horns work, and therefore honk whenever they see me. It's their misfortune that I'm not an undercover agent of any kind, and my response to "My horn works!" is simply "So does this rock! And my finger!"

- "WARNING: THERE IS A CAR NEARBY" Honestly, this seems like the most useful thing the driver in question could mean (and that's still not saying much). For one thing, it puts the horn to its intended use as a warning. And the matter-of-fact-ness of the message would explain the expressionless, focused faces of the drivers in question. BUT! It's also kind of an incredibly stupid thing to do. Like I didn't hear the engine? (It's never an electric car, so shut up about that.) I didn't see the shadow, feel the rumble in the ground, hear the blaring radio? And even if I were that oblivious, as long as they intend to stay on the road, and I intend to stay on the sidewalk, we weren't really in any danger, now were we? Maybe there's something about my stride that makes me seem always on the point of dashing out into the street for no reason, arms akimbo, just looking for a car to kill me. Maybe what they mean is more like "SWEET JESUS WOMAN, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?! STAY ON THE SIDEWALK." But really? I don't think so.

- "JUMP!" I generally assume this is what the d-bag in question means to say. "You seem to be having a nice relaxing walk on a sunny day, engrossed in your thoughts and enjoying some peace and quiet. HEY! I bet if I sounded my horn really loudly and abruptly as I came up behind you, you'd jump three feet in the air! AWESOME! [HOOOOOONK!!!!]" Assholes.

Like I said: I don't get it. And I know I don't have many readers, but if you've happened upon this post and you know why people honk - or if you yourself are a walker-honker - PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD leave a comment and tell me why. And also make a note that however well-intentioned the honking may be, it is not appreciated. So STOP. NOW.

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