|Lessons from a one year old...CALM DOWN!|
Imagine, for a moment, that I'm walking behind you. I'm in a rush, needing to pick up my children, meet a friend, or some other activity that is of no consequence to you and your day. You are also off somewhere, but are walking at a slower pace and I am unable to pass you without bumping into you. Instead of waiting till a path clears, I yell "Hey!". Inevitably, I will startle you, and in all likelihood, your natural reaction will be to yell back, and we will likely exchange a few choice words before going about our day. Passers by will certainly have questions about my mental stability for having yelled at a stranger, and we'll both be angry and miserable for the rest of our journey. Sounds pretty awful, right?
Now put yourself in a car in front of me, same situation, but instead of yelling, I honk at you. Is you're reaction any different? Probably not. The act of honking a car horn is the equivalent to yelling incoherently at someone. When someone honks their horn, the person for whom that honk is intended is frequently unaware they're doing anything wrong, if they are at all. There is a very negative reaction to honking as well, even if the intention is solely to get someones attention. If you are the one being honked at, the reaction is typically to get angry, wave your hands around, and occasionally show someone the finger. The kicker is, neither you or the person honking at you are having an intelligent conversation, and are doing no more than making obscure, angry gestures at each other, accomplishing very little other than leaving both parties rattled being the wheel.
Honking is also incredibly distracting. When I'm crossing the street on bike or on foot, and someone honks, whether at me or someone else on the road, I inevitably slow down and look to see what's going on. Let's think about that for a moment. I am in the middle of the road, stopped and looking around for the disgruntled driver. Is that really a good idea? The easy answer is no, but I, and I'm sure most people, inevitably do it. Because our automatic response is that horn is intended for us, and, at least for me, I have an obligation to tell that person to stop being an impatient dickhead. So instead of being focused on remaining safe in the road, I am now in the midst of car traffic, around other road users who have also been distracted by the loud honking, everyone trying to figure out who's at fault, and no one really paying attention to what they should be...the road and others on it.
Further to honking being distracting, it can be quite terrifying, especially for our most fragile road users - pedestrians and cyclists. If you've ever ridden a bike in a larger city, you've likely had that moment when you're travelling along, minding your own business, and out of no where someone honks, you are startled and your heart begins to race. But hey, we're adults, we can handle it and recover quickly enough, right? Kids, on the other hand, aren't always so lucky. Nearly six years ago, while out discovering our city with our then toddler aged daughter, we were walking along without a care in the world, when suddenly a large vehicle honked. Our daughter was instantly startled, tripped and fell face first onto the sidewalk. She managed to cut her lip pretty badly, and was obviously in tears, both scared and hurt. And why was that guy honking? Because the person in front of him was turning left and waiting patiently for the crossing to clear to do so. All he accomplished was making himself unnecessarily agitated and scaring a child so much she was left bleeding and with a fat lip. Let's all have a slow clap for that guy.
Don't get me wrong, honking has its place from time to time, mainly in cases when another driver is being dangerous and risking lives. But the number of times I'm out and about and someone honks at another driver simply because they have stopped to allow me to cross the road is astounding. It serves no purpose in that situation other than to agitate everyone involved. It's just another case of society needing to take a moment and clam down. Yes, we're all busy people with hectic lives, but no one person's needs outweigh the needs of those around them. So, to all the honk-happy people out there, take a breath, wait that extra second, and proceed with your day a little less agitated and maybe a bit happier knowing that you haven't left someone thinking you're nothing but inconsiderate fool.