Today's question: Is there such a thing as a friendly honk?
The youngest and best driver in the family, if you can overlook
the fact that she refuses to stop on long road trips and I were at a
red light. The driver in front of us was looking at himself in his
mirror, fixing his hair, when the light turned green.
We waited, three, four seconds, and then agreed we should give a little
honk. My driver ever so lightly tapped the horn: "-beep-"
That was it. It was such a friendly little "Herbie the Love Bug" toot that I'm
pretty sure the headlights batted their eyelashes and the front grillwork turned up
in a big smile.
The driver pulled back from the mirror, repositioned himself before the wheel and
pulled through the intersection. Then he abruptly slowed down in a fashion that made
us think he had no affection whatsoever for Herbie the Love Bug.
So we slowed way down, like maybe we'd turn on another street, pull over and change
the oil, or rip out the transmission.
We pulled up to the stoplight, where our new friend was waiting two lanes over. His
taillights were glaring and his rear tires were spinning gravel even though we were
"Were you honking at ME?" he shouted.
I smiled and, in what I thought to be a disarming voice, answered, "Yes, the light
turned green and we didn't think you saw it because you were messing with your
hair." I thought maybe this would diffuse the situation and possibly even prevent
him from having an imminent heart attack.
He sputtered, turned red and cut loose. (LANGUAGE ADVISORY) He screamed, "TAKE A
FLYING LEAP!" Parents, you should be so lucky your kids talk like this.
It was like having Frankie Avalon read you the riot act. I thought Doris Day and
Rock Hudson might jump up from his backseat and start a pillow fight.
It was a nice way to be told off, but then we felt sorry that we had inadvertently
irritated a fellow who was above being coarse, vulgar and uncouth.
In our post-encounter analysis, I said I believed that the one-tap friendly honk was
universally understood. It is a versatile honk; much like the word aloha. It can
mean, hello, goodbye, heads up, I'm here, I'm leaving or I see you in that big
chicken suit flapping your arms.
Consensus was that the friendly honk is vastly different from the mad warning honk,
which is a loud, long, angry blast that says, "stay in your own lane," "pay
attention, cell phone diva" or "my brakes are out."
After consulting several etiquette sources, while they acknowledge the friendly
honk, they advise against it. They seem particularly averse to using it to tell a
girl you think she's cute or a guy that he is hot, or as a means of asking friends
They were also emphatic about not honking the horn because you are too lazy to get
out of your car and go to the door.
You may, however, use your horn in the parking garage after your baseball team has
won, in a parade - AND to alert another driver as to a driving error.
So there you have it. In addition to the friendly honk and the warning honk, we now
have the driving error honk to add to our growing repertoire of honks.
You go first.