Actually, I am a relatively calm and peaceful being. But when I sit behind a steering wheel and I am faced with crazy drivers left, right and center in a more or less rule-free environment, I regularly transform into a hot-tempered Southern Italian version of myself. (No offense Southern-Italians, I do like you!)
Do you speak Honk?
I lived and worked in the Middle East for quite a few years and quickly got used to honking my way through. In Beirut, for instance, honking is considered absolutely normal and necessary if you want to make your way through the congested small streets of the city in a reasonable amount of time. Nobody takes issue with it. On the contrary, blowing the horn is a well-established and highly effective means of communication.
Just a few examples to illustrate my point:
- Pushy, staccato-like HONK! HONK! HONK! means ‘Watch out! Here I come’.
- Short, encouraging HONK! means ‘Wait a second, ya habibi, and let me take a turn.’
- Death defying HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONK!!! means ‘Should there be any traffic coming towards me behind that curve we will probably both die as I do not intend on slowing down too much’.
- Pleasantly surprised HONK HONK!? amidst a traffic jam – ‘Hey!! You? Here!? How is it going?’
- Indignant HONK HOOOONK! (usually accompanied by wild gesturing and drumming on the steering wheel) means ‘You son of a donkey! Are you insane!!? You cut me off!’
Back to the Rule of (Traffic) Law
Needless to say, in other parts of the world honking indiscriminately (all a matter of interpretation of course) either gets you a ticket or triggers the rage of your fellow-drivers in no time. Whenever I visit my folks in Northern Europe, I am at high risk of misbehaving and, therefore, have to reprimand myself regularly to stay out of traffic trouble.
What I learned in Saharan Africa is that signaling ( = using the turn indicator) is totally overrated. Nobody does it. Crossing lanes frantically without indicating so is what you do. If one feels the need to signal, s/he pulls down the window and sticks an arm out to ensure that the half-comatose drivers in the back understand what’s going on. Friendly waving (which occurs less often) means “Go ahead, I am peaceful and I have time.” And, yes absolutely, in cities with lots of fast-moving traffic, this can lead to nasty injuries.
Personally, I am pretty verbose when I am driving, particularly when I am – as I usually am – late for work. This verbosity usually includes less diplomatic expressions as well. I know, at my age I probably shouldn’t lose my temper over the behavior of co-drivers and transform into a cursing trucker but – I swear – there are reasons for it! It’s a circus on the streets… and frankly, isn’t a good rant in the morning also terribly liberating?
Unfortunately, I do also belong to the self-deluding species that believes – despite actually knowing better – that nobody can hear (let alone see) what she is saying (and gesturing) only because she sits in a car with closed windows. But so far it’s remained pretty civil.
Wishing you smooth driving, whether you are verbose like me or yogi-like.
Have a nice weekend!