Saturday, July 22, 2006

Honk If You're An Asshole



I spend way too much time in the car these days. Having grown up in NYC, I didn't even get my license until I was 23. Since moving out to the 'burbs, though, I've resigned myself to a life that is spent behind the wheel. And most of THAT time is spent in shock and awe at the limited driving skills of others on the road. (I often note to myself that the same person who turns without signaling is the one who can't seem to work out the physics of proper grocery bagging. The only difference is that no one is going to DIE when she puts all your heavy stuff in one bag.)

My father was a terrible tailgater and often on the receiving end of road rage. People would get out of their cars and scream at him, or just pull up along side him and mouth all kinds of nasty stuff. My sister and I fashioned ourselves after The Bowery Boys and gave the other drivers "Routine Number 59", which amounted to nothing more than funny faces. But we thought it was an effective defense.

One thing I liked about driving in the city was that people had car horns and they weren't afraid to use them. That joke about the definition of a nanosecond can ONLY work when a New Yorker is part of the punchline. (The time it takes between the light turning green and the horn blaring.) When I moved to CT, I discovered that no one uses their horns. I'd punch my steering wheel to alert the woman in front of me that it was time to stop applying lip liner and MOVE, only to be glared at by other drivers and onlookers.

Eleven years later, I moved back to NY but still outside the city, and even here...no one honks. But what occurred to me yesterday is that honking is pretty useless anyway. What I want is a car equipped with a selection of sounds and comments that I can direct to the proper audience. For example:

"BACK OFF" for those annoying tailgaters. Look, I'm going 75. What is your problem? I can count your nose hairs from here. Especially helpful when there's another car directly in front of you, and the tailgater still won't let up. Without this handy feature, I find myself making wing-flapping motions in my rear-view mirror, the universal sign for: "Whaddya want me to do, FLY over him?"

"HANG UP AND DRIVE", for you-know-who.

"SIGNAL MUCH?"

"[wild applause]" for those wonderfully satisying, but woefully infrequent, times that the person who just blasted past you at 120mph gets pulled over.


This would also eliminate the need to set poor examples for our children with endless namecalling and bird flipping. One Christmas, my friend Seth's 2-year-old daughter got one of those driving toys with the steering wheel and little red horn in the middle. While the extended family was noisily chatting and opening gifts, it became apparent that the toddler was off in a corner, wildly yanking the wheel from one side to the other, banging on the horn and yelling "IDIOT! IDIOT"

Whoops.