I went on a horn fast. My car horn does not work and I do not use it. I’m sure this is a first class safety hazard, so I drive more carefully than necessary to make up for it, which means I’m slower and more cautious in every move I make, which occasionally irritates certain folks prone to road rage.
I could get it fixed, I suppose. In the five years since it became disabled, there was exactly one time I wished to use it when another car was about merge right into me, but it’s not exactly at the top of the List of Repairs My Old Jeep Needs.
I don’t know when I started honking at people. When I moved to Fargo from my little hometown and the traffic increased 100 fold? In my selfish, entitled college years of missed opportunities? If I knew then what I know now, I could have saved the world, I think. But I digress.
When I was in my mid-20’s, my mother was in the car with me. I honked my horn at someone taking a left in front of me after my light turned green. My mother swatted my hand and near-shouted, “Don’t do that!” Even at my age, I still obey my mother, so with her little angel self sitting on my shoulder, I scaled back to light taps on the horn to inform wayward drivers of their sins. A polite little honk to inform the driver in front of me that the light had already been green for 2.5 seconds was still polite, right?
Then The Incident occurred and now the horn doesn’t work anymore, so I drive with no choice but to accept every driving blunder with patience, acceptance, and humor.
This is what I’ve learned through honk-less driving.
- Outside of the once-in-five-years near miss, there is almost no reason to honk at anyone. Ever. When someone honks at me, they aren’t telling me anything I do not already know about my driving skills. I know when I’ve made a poorly timed turn. I know when I’ve stared at my thumbs a little too long at a stop light. I know when I’ve merged in a little too close for comfort at not quite the right speed. It happens. To everyone.
- I offer more grace in the places that used to bother me the most. Take the four-way stop, for instance. How hard is it to approach an intersection, look around at everyone else, and go in the order that everyone stopped? Impossible, it sometimes seems. A horn isn’t necessary, though. I just smile and wave my hand to get the ball rolling. It works every time.
- Horns are scary. Not like monsters-under-the-bed scary, but startling. I hear a horn and start to look around for hazards, only to realize I’ve become one myself. I don’t want to be the reason anyone has to look around and have an accident while trying to figure out what they are doing wrong.
- It is 100% my fault if I’m in a hurry and others on the road are not. My poor planning is not an excuse to be rude to others. I’m going to be 5 minutes late whether or not I inform the slowpoke in front of me that he’s going 5 mph under the speed limit or that he missed an opportunity to turn.
- Sometimes I feel angry when I’m honked at by another driver, perhaps because I know I’m not doing anything wrong or because they are being unusually aggressive toward my unintentional driving error. I can only assume others would be angry if I honked at them, and I can’t live with that kind of guilt. I’m probably preventing some unsafe road rage, too.
- People in other cars are people, too. I wouldn’t honk at my neighbor for a bad driving choice or flip him off or throw my hands way up in the air for all to see my anger. We’re friends, so I can forgive him easily. We’ll be chuckling about it over a beer in the driveway in no time. I decided to think of everyone in every car as a friend and treat them as such.
Driving in Fargo is no picnic. Bad drivers gonna be bad drivers, but I’m sick of all the honking and aggressive drivers making it hard to be a safe driver. I once had a car honk at me continuously for about 10 blocks because she thought I’d missed an opportunity to turn onto a busy street. Apparently, she knew my vehicles acceleration habits better than I did. Then she turned into an auto parts store, so I decided to believe that her horn was just on the fritz and she was buying parts to fix it. It upset me, and it strengthened my resolve to never honk my horn again. Unless it’s a dire emergency.
Could you stop honking your horn? Would you be willing to try?
This article is cross posted at my other blog, Bright Above Fargo.