Guts = Courtesy?

by admin on July 26, 2012

First, a little background to this story:

On my way home from work, to get to my freeway on-ramp, I have to cross the weirdest little intersection. Stick with me here; it’s somewhat complicated.

Just before the on-ramp, there is an intersection with four northbound lanes: left-turn only, left-turn/straight, straight only, and right-turn only. If you go straight on the left-turn/straight lane, it turns into a turn-only lane that directs you onto the freeway almost immediately. That is my route.

I approach the intersection on a small single-lane side street running parallel with the freeway. However, before I reach it, there is an off-ramp for the northbound lanes. The cars leaving the freeway have no stop sign, and often cross my path at near-freeway speeds, only slowing down when they reach the four lanes of the intersection about a hundred feet to my right.

My road has a stop sign, warning us that “cross traffic does not stop”. Therefore, anyone approaching this particular intersection from that road has to stop at the stop sign and wait for a gap in the off-ramp traffic to scoot across and into their chosen lane before someone comes flying off the exit again. Most days it’s not a long wait, though – I usually only have to wait for a few cars to go by before there’s a big enough space.

Okay! Tedious description done.

Now, on this particular day the traffic on the freeway was unusually horrible, so any car that could get to the exit was evacuating like rats off a sinking ship. This meant a steady, nonstop stream of cars were blocking my way to the intersection. Curses.
Still, these things happen, so I settled in to wait as one by one the cars ahead of me found their chances and scuttled across. Finally, there was only a single van in front of me, when the flow coming off the freeway suddenly got much worse, just barely a car-length between each exiting vehicle, and I was just feeling bad for the poor van driver when the guy behind me …honked. What? (I actually said it out loud, I was so flabbergasted) What?! Could they not see that there was no space to cross in? What on earth were they honking for?

A brief aside here – I should mention that this is all happening just north of Seattle. We Washingtonians, we only honk for three reasons: 1. The person in front of us hasn’t seen that the light has turned green – that earns the tiniest, politest meep we can manage; 2. Someone does not see us and attempts to merge into us – our response tends to be a firmer but still polite beep! to remind them we’re there; 3: Someone cuts us off so egregiously that we feel we have been endangered – we’ll go HONK! for that, but we’ll feel guilty for being so harsh later.

So, when Guy Behind Me started to honk, I was astounded. What was he trying to accomplish? The van couldn’t move until it found a spot- oh! There it went! It was my turn now!

And then the cars came, and came, and came, and I waited and waited and waited, and then GBM honked again! What. Seriously?

I waited some more, and a spot passed that a very fast sports car might have made it through (but not my tiny ancient truck) and GBM honked yet again, and then some guy a few cars back laid on his horn too.

After I got over my astonishment that I was being apparently peer-pressured to drive directly into the cross traffic, I chose to simply ignore them and wait for a safe gap. None was forthcoming for a while, and the intersection light cycled through a green light. The guy a few cars back started yelling something out his window. I ignored him until at last there was one car in the river of vehicles that was going slow enough for me to safely cross and enter my lane – the left-turn/straight lane that leads directly onto the freeway. GBM tailgated me across the gap instead of doing his own legal stop at the sign, but fine. Whatever. Maybe he was really late for something.

Here’s where it gets good.

As I was sitting there in my lane waiting for the light to turn green again, I realized I could hear shouting. I rolled down my window, and in my side mirror I saw that the Guy a Few Cars Back had pulled up right behind me and was yelling at me. He had one arm out the window and about an eighth of his head, so all I could see of him was that gesticulating arm, some floofy 80′s-curled hair, and his left ear. I found it quite amusing until I heard him shout this: “Hey! Hey, lady, how about a little COURTESY?”

What?

Was he calling me uncourteous for not taking my life in my hands and potentially causing somebody to crash into me?

He continued, “How about a little COURTESY, lady, you’ve gotta have guts! You can’t just sit there and WAIT!”

Now, I’m generally pretty non-confrontational, but his accusation seemed so monumentally unfair that I had to respond. After all, here I thought I was being courteous to the drivers exiting the freeway by not cutting across in front of them and making them crash into me and kill me and all. They probably have a hard enough life without that on their conscience.

So I shouted back, “I’m sorry, but I’m not going to risk my life for a green light!”

“Well you’ve gotta have GUTS lady, there’s not going to just BE a hole!”

It’s hard to sound icy while shouting at someone out your car window, but I tried my best.

“Clearly there was one.” I yelled frostily, and declined to speak again. So did he, but mostly because the light turned green.

But wait! Here’s the best part: he followed me through the intersection, perhaps with the intent of continuing our discussion, but was apparently not familiar with the lanes and therefore did not realize that he was following me onto the freeway until it was almost too late. He had to swerve desperately into the correct lane, egregiously cutting someone off in the process, and got a HONK! of outrage for his discourtesy. I laughed half of the way home. 0724-12

{ 74 comments… read them below or add one }

Cherry July 26, 2012 at 7:07 am

I have to say, I think you handled that perfectly. Your final comment was just right.

Ugh, but seriously, don’t you just love people who expect you to risk your life just so THEY aren’t held up? I’d be winning to bet that had the positions been reversed, he wouldn’t have had “guts” enough to risk his life all to get home a little bit quicker.

One last point: anyone who refers to me as “Lady” isn’t going to do well in our conversation. Maybe I’m alone in this, but it’s SUCH a pet peeve of mine.

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The Elf July 26, 2012 at 7:11 am

Ah, rude honkers. They make me nuts. And does he really think shouting is going to accomplish anything other than making the other driver angry?

Here in the “other Washington” (DC), people are pretty free with their honking! I ride a motorcycle, in what has been recently listed as the nation’s worst traffic. Some studies put as at #2, right behind LA. This makes me a very defensive driver. At the same time, I have a lot more power at my disposal than most drivers. Most bikes can accelerate, decelerate, or swerve very quickly compared to a car (that isn’t a sports car). I sometimes use these tools aggressively to get out of bad traffic, but I am especially wary of oncoming traffic since a crash with another driver could very easily kill me.

So, I’m waiting to turn left at a busy traffic light controlled intersection. There are multiple lanes and dedicated turn lanes each direction. I have a green, but not a green arrow, so I’m waiting for a gap big enough. Nothing yet. The guy behind me is going nuts, honking and gesticulating. Finally, I see a gap and I start to turn. He races up behind me at attempts to pass me on the right mid-turn! Well, I guess he didn’t take the power difference into account, and he was in a *minivan*, so there was just no way he was going to pass me within the space of an intersection. I didn’t even have to try to keep pace. I guess he wasn’t looking too far ahead either, since there was a big bus taking up the right hand lane on the road we turned on. He had to come to a screeching halt to avoid hitting the bus, and I just kept right on going.

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Angel July 26, 2012 at 7:18 am

LOL. What a dope. Not the OP. The moron railing away about courtesy.

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TheVapors July 26, 2012 at 7:36 am

I distinctly remember my very first driving lesson with my father. He said to me, “Your job as a driver is to drive defensively. Always. Whatever has happened, it is never worth getting into an accident over.”

I always think of that, even briefly, when I get into my car. Whatever happens. Whatever Special Snowflake I come across. Whatever stupid mistake another driver has made. It is never worth getting into an accident over. If I can avoid an accident, I have done my job.

Seems that the OP came across a Very Special Snowflake. He’s like those people who run out in front of traffic and think “Of course they’ll stop, because I’m in the way!” without actually thinking that maybe they won’t have time to stop… or maybe they aren’t that great of a driver…or maybe they’re distracted.

I absolutely understand why the OP would want to defend himself/herself. They did nothing wrong, and it’s the other driver who should be ashamed, and probably needs to go back for a driving school refresher. (Amusingly, as seems to be common, this Special Snowflake decided that it is “courtesy” that should force others to do dangerous things to prevent him from being inconvenienced. *giant eyeroll*)

However, I honestly must discourage any person from getting into it with another person on the road. There are some seriously deranged/road rage filled people out there. In the future? Do the right thing, turn on some music, keep the window closed, and keep your eyes forward. For your driving safety, please, do not engage the crazy. Just as it’s not worth getting into an accident over something, it’s not worth getting into a fight over something that happened on the road.

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AMC July 26, 2012 at 7:44 am

Well that’s road rage for ya. There’s just no pleasing some people. Things aren’t moving fast enough for them, so they take their anger out on the most convenient target, justified or not. You know that you did nothing wrong, and that’s all that matters. Thank you for being a courteous and safe driver and resisting the peer pressure of aggressive roadhogs.

PS- Despite his outrageously flawed logic, it was probably not wise of you to respond by yelling out your window at him. If he had been a violent individual, engaging with him could have put you in serious danger. Much better to ignore him and continue on your way.

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SV July 26, 2012 at 7:45 am

You have to love Karma’s sense of humor :)

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siamesecat 2965 July 26, 2012 at 7:46 am

People like that make me nuts. Just because they might risk their life by shooting out into an intersection, doesn’t mean you will. I had something similar happen to me a few months back. The town next to me, which I go through to get to a local shopping area and mall, had some major construction on a bridge, so the traffic was all shuttled around. At one intersection, there had been blinking red and yellow lights, where there had been a normal traffic light.

So I’m on my way home one day, and realize that the blinking lights have now been changed back to the regular lights, and I just barely stopped on the red light. I needed to make a left turn; and that was the only way you could go and get through. Straight would take you to the local businesses ahead, but you’d have to turn around to leave.

So I’m sitting at the light, waiting to make my left turn. Now when you turn left, right there is the police station. Added bonus; a worker was doing something on the road, on the side, and a cop was right there, I guess making sure no one mowed him down. So I’m in plain view of the cop and station, and he can see me.

So I’m waiting, and I hear honking. And it stops. And starts up again. And stops. And starts up again. The light was kind of long, so this went on for a couple of minutes. But I was NOT going to turn left on red, in any circumstance, even though there was no other traffic. The light finally turns green, I slowly make my turn, and the cop motions me over. I stop, and roll down my window, and he says to me “was he (meaning I think the car behind me) honking?” I said either him, or someone else Next thing I see is the car behind me being pulled over!

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L.J. July 26, 2012 at 7:51 am

Stop using the word “sorry” when you are not apologizing. You said, “I’m sorry, but I’m not going to risk my life for a green light!” All the other driver heard was you apologizing, even though you weren’t. He ignored the rest of the sentence, because, to him, the first two words already acknowledged your wrongdoing. After that, he was (in his mind) kindly advising you on how to avoid making the same mistake again.

Two other thoughts: 1) those honking drivers probably have a drawer full of tickets and spend a lot of time complaining about how cops are out to get them. 2) I love public transportation and wish it were a priority for more states.

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Lisa Marie July 26, 2012 at 9:46 am

I do not acknowledge other drivers like that one. It is a good way to get shot or a baseball bat on your car. Sad to say but that is the way it is nowadays. I sit there and tell myself that I am driving this car not them and I paid for it and the insurance on it and have to pay the consequences for my actions. Don’t let other people tell you how to drive. Let them think you’re an idiot. Who cares.

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Elizabeth July 26, 2012 at 9:54 am

I really think the best thing to do in these situations is to ignore the honking/screaming/gesturing person. Engaging the crazy will only escalate things. No one ever calmed down after a testy reply.

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Abby July 26, 2012 at 10:02 am

People like that are crazy. You are best not engaging with them. I know you feel like you have to defend yourself, but it’s not worth it.

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Wendy July 26, 2012 at 10:44 am

Under the circumstances, I think you were certainly correct. Why risk your life for someone else’s impatience? You know the capabilities of your vehicle better than the guy behind you, and how much tolerance for risk you have. If they were worried about being on time…well, that’s not your problem.

I think I’d have taken down their license plate numbers and contacted the police because that could be construed as aggressive driving/road rage and the police might want to call them up and have a polite chat with them about their actions. Good for you for sticking to your safety too!

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Chris July 26, 2012 at 10:48 am

I think you showed quite a bit of courtesy there. You waited until you could both legally and, most importantly, safely merge with the cross traffic. It could be seen as quite discourteous to force a driver with the right-of-way to yield to you (not to mention illegal). It would also be a terrible inconvenience to everyone behind you, and in the cross traffic lanes, if you had attempted an unsafe merge and gotten into an accident! In this case acting in your own best interests was the most courteous behavior you could have exhibited. And I applaud you.

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LovleAnjel July 26, 2012 at 11:05 am

This made me chuckle! The highway off-ramp I have to use every day ends at a stop sign a hundred yards from a major intersection – I have to cross a right turn lane, two straight lanes and into the furthest of two left turn lanes, in the holes between the cars exiting from the other side of the highway. I sympathize wholeheartedly.

It’s not rude to wait until you feel safe turning into traffic. We all have different vehicles with different capabilities and ourselves have all different reaction times. My eyesight makes it difficult to judge the speed of oncoming traffic, so I err on the side of assuming it is moving faster than it is (which leaves my husband grumbling and saying “you could have just gone!” in the seat next to me). I once owned a car with a tendency to die during left-hand turns, so I had to always wait for a big gap in traffic to make sure I didn’t cause an accident if it did.

The gentleman in question seems to think it was rude for people to not make the same driving decisions as him. The rest of the world is not you, nor does it revolve around you.

The only thing the OP might rethink for the future was engaging with the angry driver. It generally escalates anger and tension and can lead to bad things. Perhaps he was just intending to go on his way after that, but perhaps he was planning to follow you to somewhere he could more directly confront you – I have seen angry drivers leave their cars and try to physically engage the people they are angry with. It’s safer to ignore them and keep going, and if you see him exit his car and walk towards you, dial the police and let him know.

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Michelle P July 26, 2012 at 11:08 am

While I don’t blame you for defending yourself, he could have had a gun. You were being a good driver and the best thing to do is ignore him. Don’t escalate the situation; he could have done far worse than just yell at you.

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Goldie July 26, 2012 at 11:23 am

Ugh, I think we’ve all had our share of drivers cutting, merging, or turning left right in front of us so we have to slam on our brakes to avoid an accident. Nice to know that they attribute their being able to cut in front of people and drive away safe, to their “guts” and quick reaction. Um, no buddy, it was MY quick reaction, not yours, that kept you from getting hit — though I do admit you’ve got some guts — but not in a good way!

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AS July 26, 2012 at 11:24 am

OP, you handled it quite well. This guy was rude and serves him well for trying to follow you.
These are times that I wonder where the cops are!

I experienced something like this a couple of days ago. As some of you know, the left turn signal and cross walk perpendicular to the road the cars would be turning into often open at the same time in the USA, and cars turning should yeild to the pedestrians. I was crossing the road with my father, and none of the cars would stop, even though the signal was still on! A driver rolled down the window and said to me “wait for the signal” and I said that it is on. It was awful and quite scary!

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LonelyHound July 26, 2012 at 11:24 am

Drivers like that fry my buttons because usually they are the cause of crashes! Like everyone I have a Special Snowflake (as TheVapors so nicely put it) story. My hubby and I switch off driving our baby to daycare. There are many ways to get there but the way I usually goes has a left turn right before the daycare center. This left turn, during morning and evening rush, has an arrow. As we all know green arrow means go and red arrow means stop. I was stopped at the red arrow light when this little cream color sedan pulled up. The driver started honking at me. I was rather confused since I am stopped and not doing anything. I peeked in my rearview mirror the next time the driver honked. The driver was waving forward! The driver was trying to “encourage” me to run a red light WITH MY BABY IN THE CAR so they could get to where ever they needed to go a little faster. Even though there was no oncoming traffic I declined to go seeing as I had a red arrow. This peeved the car behind me off enough that the driver pulled into the oncoming lane and made the turn nearly hitting an oncoming car in the process!!

My mantra in the mornings is: “If you are driving like a maniac to get to work on time you need to leave earlier. And in the evenings when people pull stupid stuff: “I want to get home too. My family is just as important as yours. It would be a shame if you caused a wreck and then we were BOTH late getting home.”

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Ann July 26, 2012 at 11:39 am

Ah, yes. Impatient drivers who expect one to risk one’s life for them. An interesting species. And, I’m on a bike when I’m experiencing them, so just imagine.

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Cat July 26, 2012 at 11:44 am

We all run across these people once in awhile. I’ve even had a guy lay on his horn (this was in Miami, FL) because I stopped for a school bus with its lights flashing and the sign out on a busy, four lane highway with no divider. I am supposed to mow down small children in order not to impede his progress?

I share with you my response. I make the sign of the cross (I’m Catholic) and I pray, “I thank you, Lord, that I did not bring the person behind me into the world, that I did not have to raise him, and that You, in Your infinite kindness, did not allow me to marry him. I shall not be seeing him at Thanksgiving. Amen.”

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saiyangerl July 26, 2012 at 11:48 am

Just the other day my husband and I were going to get on the freeway. The entrance was on the right and you had to stop to yield for oncoming traffic that had the right of way. So we stopped and the car behind us had the nerve to honk! We couldn’t go because there was oncoming traffic making lefthand turns onto the freeway! When it was clear and we went, the car behind us zoomed into the left lane of the entrance since the entrance was 2 lanes which merged into one. The entrance was also very windy but that didn’t stop Mr. Special Snowflake but speeding the whole way in an apparent effort to “show us” how much we had “inconvenienced” him because we had to yield to oncoming traffic…

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Gee July 26, 2012 at 11:54 am

I would have kept my window rolled up and ignored him. You never know when someone like that might have a gun and be crazy enough to use it. If you aren’t going to risk your life driving into traffic, don’t risk your life taking on a crazy person.

I don’t think OP did anything wrong, per se, but you need to be careful. Engaging a person like that can be like throwing gasoline on a fire.

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Emily July 26, 2012 at 12:27 pm

I’m going to throw myself on the mercy of EHell for my own transgression in this story, but I had to share:

I once turned right on a red light–I thought there was plenty of time before the car that had the green light would even make it to the intersection, but apparently he was going much much faster than I realized (and faster than was safe, considering this area has very dense stop and go traffic). He did have to break so as not to hit me and subsequently laid down on the horn much more than necessary and continued on the horn down the street.

Now, I try to uphold the teachings of EHell everyday, but this particular afternoon I was having a really terrible day, I was in a horrible mood, and, for the *first time in my entire life*, I flipped the crazed driver the bird.

And let me tell you, it was the last time I have ever done it either, because the driver went CRAZY. Screaming and gesturing and, for his final act, he swerved in front of my car as I was trying to get into another right hand turn lane. Even though the light was green and the road was clear, he sat there, blocking me from making my turn, still gesturing in the mirror. I managed to squeak away straight through the intersection just as the light turned yellow, but I have never been more scared in my life.

So, long story short: NEVER interact with drivers suffering road rage–it could put your life into serious danger!

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L July 26, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Ugh, people like that drive me insane! I was waiting to make a right turn at an intersection and, though I got a green light, there were 2 pedestrians in the walk way. The car behind me either didn’t see or care and began honking at me to go! Of course the pedestrians thought it was ME honking at them, which I shook my head and pointed behind me while saying ‘sorry.’

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jena rogers July 26, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Lisa Marie’s approach is great. I agree about confronting another driver you don’t know — really not recommended. And about saying “I’m sorry” when clearly you have nothing to apologize for. I don’t know when that became part of our collective vocabulary, and I’d like to see it phased out. As a strong believer in Karma, I try to avoid the risk of getting in its way. Folks seem to get what’s coming to them without my help. Safe travels, everyone.

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StephM July 26, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I’m going to echo everyone else and say you did the right thing until you spoke to him. Ehell’s archives has a whole section dedicated to road rage, and it includes some scary stuff. There is no reasoning with road ragers.

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drzim July 26, 2012 at 12:55 pm

This reminds me of the time I was waiting to make a left turn. The light turned green, and I pulled straight into the intersection with my left signal on and to wait until the traffic cleared. However, at the same time there was an older lady crossing the street with the green light, moving slowly, so even though there were no more cars, I couldn’t safely make my turn without cutting her off/possibly hitting her.

So I waited. The guy behind me went ballistic with the horn. Apparently, he couldn’t see the woman crossing the street, only that there were no cars. When I still didn’t move, he decided to go around me and turn left anyway. He missed hitting that woman by inches as he slammed on his brakes. I safely made my turn as he was stuck stopped in the intersection getting told off by the woman! At least he had the decency to look very embarrassed.

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manybellsdown July 26, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Boy oh boy, living in Los Angeles I see these people way too often. I only just got honked at last week for waiting for a gap in traffic to turn onto a busy 4-lane road.

One of my favorites, though was this one: I was headed down the freeway toward a junction where it splits into two different freeways. This tends to cause very slow traffic, as everyone adjusts their position to be in the correct lane. The traffic was heavy, so I was going fairly slow and leaving a decent gap in front of me, as people swerved in and out of my lane a lot. I happened to glance in the rearview mirror and there’s a woman behind me, riding my bumper, and clearly ranting at me. Now I could have gone faster, but only a little, and I’d be slamming on my brakes a lot – also I was in the rightmost lane that wasn’t “must exit”.

I took one look at this woman’s face in my mirror and busted out laughing. I couldn’t help it. She must’ve seen my face, because she turned so red I could see it even in the mirror. The irony is, of course, she didn’t even want to be in my lane. She realized it was going onto the wrong freeway at the last minute and had to cut across two lanes to get onto hers.

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Rug Pilot July 26, 2012 at 1:25 pm

As long as I’m driving this car I’M driving this car. I am responsible for everything it does and, if I can’t control it or I think I can’t do something with it, I won’t move. You can honk all you want.

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Miss Raven July 26, 2012 at 1:27 pm

This whole story is nutty! I have my share of road rage (it can be severe), but never bad enough to start yelling at someone else in traffic! Like most people, I just swear and seethe to myself with my windows up.

When teaching me how to drive, my Dad relayed the following pearl of wisdom he had received from his father: “Drive like everyone around you is a complete idiot.” Always assume the very worst of other drivers (and pedestrians, for that matter) and make decisions accordingly.

Is that guy about to run into the street against the light? Assume he will. Is the guy in front of you going to slam on his breaks because the light turned yellow, despite being able to easily make it through? Assume he will. Does the truck you want to merge in front of see you, even though you are very clearly in his frame of vision? Assume he doesn’t.

The gentleman in this story is the idiot we’re concerned about. Is he going to pull away from the stop sign, despite there not being enough room between oncoming cars? Assume YES. Unfortunately, he couldn’t STAND you not doing likewise. Unfortunately, HE would be assuming that all the other cars would immediately see him and come to a screeching halt rather than kill him. WE would be assuming that these cars, as well, house idiots who can’t think fast enough or aren’t paying attention.

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Andie July 26, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Dude was gonna follow you so he could keep fighting with you? What a creep!

I wouldn’t gamble with my life for anyone’s convenience. I also won’t take the chance of even damaging my car or getting a traffic ticket (no, not even a traffic ticket, because seventy bucks would make a serious dent in my budget) for someone else’s convenience.

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David July 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm

OP you handled it very well. Was the other driver from out of state?

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Nina J. Hodgson July 26, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Bill Cosby has the answer in his very old “Driving in San Francisco” routine. Stick your arm out the window and motion him around you yelling, “Come around y’idiot.”

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Seaboe July 26, 2012 at 1:54 pm

I knew this was Seattle as soon as I read the description of the intersection.

Unfortunately, this attitude is not uncommon. I believe it is the result of people driving modern sedans; they have no idea that small trucks or older cars do not accelerate as efficiently. I also believe these are the same people who believe “yield” and “merge” are synonyms and get angry if you actually stop at a yield sign.

Seaboe

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abbey July 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm

I’m with Michelle P on this. Maybe because Memphis has so many reported violent road rage incidents. I stopped engaging the crazy after having a gun pulled on me for a minor and accidental mistake. I try to always know where a police or fire station is as some of the local loons WILL follow you.

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Justin July 26, 2012 at 2:24 pm

I have to agree with the people who are saying don’t respond, it can escalate the situation very quickly. Never let other people force you to make bad decisions.

I remember a few years ago I was driving down a two lane road at about 5 MPH over the speed limit and I had a guy tailgating me. I noticed a van pulled off to the side of the road at a very odd angle, so I slowed down to the speed limit. The guy behind me blows passed me in the no passing lane and flips the bird. I look over at the van and see a fully uniformed police officer with a radar gun in hand. Saw the guy who passed me a quarter of a mile down the road pulled over.

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grumpy_otter July 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I have an old copy of Reader’s Digest stories (1940s) and one of them was about the distinguished gentleman who, when honked at, would put his car in park, walk to the honker and politely inquire, “Did you summon me?”

Not that I recommend that in this day, but man, am I tempted sometimes!

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travestine July 26, 2012 at 2:44 pm

I live in Vancouver, BC, recently acknowledged as having the worst traffic in North America. Driving here is hellish. I take the attitude that I am only responsible for what is going on in MY car and ignore the road ragers around me, but keep my cell handy for the fairly frequent 911 calls I need to make due to dangerous road ragers. I have been screamed at for driving within 10km of the speed limit (for “not going with the ‘stream of traffic’”), I have had lit cigarettes thrown on my lap for changing lanes in front of someone speeding to try to cut me off from entering a lane in front of them (that’s a common one – hey buddy, I’m not cutting you off if I can safely change lanes and you speed up to try to stop me from entering the lane). I always warn visitors to this city who are planning to drive to always wait at least two seconds before proceeding on a green light – to allow the red light runners to clear. Somehow, the whole “polite Canadian” thing goes out the window when people get behind the wheel in Vancouver, especially if one drives a big bully-sized truck or an expensive sports car.

Grand Theft Auto has NOTHING on driving in Vancouver.

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Katy July 26, 2012 at 3:40 pm

I was once riding in a convertible in Chicago rush-hour parking lot, er, traffic, which was worse than usual due to a bad accident ahead. The guy behind us, who had out of state plates, started honking and yelling at everyone to go. I finally got fed up, turned around, and shouted ‘Welcome to Chicago, this isn’t moving for a while!’ He kept honking until the guy behind him explained there was another mile or so of this before the accident, and they probably didn’t hear him all the way up there. I’m surprised he didn’t try honking longer.
I hate the honkers, but I generally refuse to engage them. You never know who is looking for a fight. People see gaps that they’d be willing to take that those people in bigger cars with poor acceleration know will wind up costing them an accident, but they expect you to take the gap because they would! Never let yourself get peer pressured into going, he isn’t going to stop and admit fault for the accident and offer to pay.

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Elizabeth July 26, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Never engage with screaming strangers, ever. No need to respond, let alone defend your actions with explanation. Repeat as necessary.

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Yenda July 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm

I have a simple rule that’s worked for me in plenty of situations. Don’t argue with crazy, you’ll never win. :)

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Tanz July 26, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Ahhhh this reminds me of an incident that happened years ago with my FIL. I was driving FIL, MIL and SIL (DH’s sister) somewhere in our car. We came to one of those roundabouts where there is a lot of traffic and it flows fairly quickly. Our car was both old and an automatic so it was very slow to ‘pick up’ from a dead stop – plus I wasn’t used to an automatic so I was a little ‘off’ too. All of this made me (and the car) a little ‘slow’ at roundabouts.

FIL took exception to how long it was taking me to enter the roundabout and he loudly told me off (I was a grown woman at the time) in front of everyone else in the car. I was shy back then and just mumbled something about a “slow car”. But these days when someone confronts me in the same way I reply “Remember what my Father does for a living?” (Dad has a towing firm). I’ve heard too many stories of – and seen the carnage from – rushed driving to drive that way myself.

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nk July 26, 2012 at 5:52 pm

So many people seem to honk their horns out of frustration and no other reason. I’ve had people honk their horns behind me when I’m stopped at a railroad crossing with the gate down and a train flying past. They can’t possibly expect me to do anything about it, so why else would they honk their horns?

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Mlerin July 26, 2012 at 7:53 pm

I think you handled that perfectly, OP. Your safety is your number one priority, and good on you for not letting that moron put you in a dangerous position.

Your story reminds me of an incident that happened with my grandfather. He had been driving with my grandmother, and they were turning left. There weren’t many big gaps to turn, so grandpa was being cautious. Behind him some man was honking his horn and making rude gestures. After a minute of this, my grandpa put the car into park, and walked to the other man’s car. Grandpa stood outside the driver’s door, and the man stared straight ahead and avoided all eye contact.
When my grandma relayed this story to me, she figured that the man was thinking somewhere along the lines of: “I’m going to beat up an old man! What do I do?” or “An old man’s going to beat me up! What do I do?”

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Cat July 26, 2012 at 8:08 pm

It’s time for a happier story. I was on my way home from running an errand and there was a SUV behind me. I was going below the speed limit and the other driver crossed to the “slow” lane on my right to pass me at a high rate of speed.
I knew something he didn’t. There was a police radar trap dead ahead on the left.
I had seen it when I passed that way earlier.
Being of a kindly nature, I waited until he drew level with me before I made a sweeping gesture and pointed to the officers standing by the road with radar guns. He had turned to look at me, probably wondering why I was driving below the limit on a four lane highway.
He was just enough ahead of me that I saw his brake lights come on, and we passed the radar guns at several miles an hour below the limit. Once we had passed, I looked over at him. He was smiling and waving at me and I feel the good vibrations he was sending my way. He sped up and went on his way.

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Cat July 26, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Sorry, I meant to write “higher”, not high rate of speed. He wasn’t speeding dangerously, just over the limit.

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Roslyn July 26, 2012 at 8:48 pm

I have always liked the quote from “Christmas Vacation”

“I don’t want to spend the Holidays DEAD!”

And, in my advancing stage in life, and I’m now teaching my two teens to drive AT THE SAME TIME I have decided instead of flipping the bird, honking or anything else I will be giving the other driver an unusual “quizzical” look and “jazz hands”. Let THEM think I’M the crazy one!! :)

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Otter July 26, 2012 at 9:45 pm

I make a right turn into my daughter’s school. There is a crosswalk before the turn and oftentimes there will be children crossing so you have to stop. People will HONK at me while I’m stopped (they can easily move into the left lane and go on). I wonder if they want me to mow down the kids so as not to impede traffic?

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Kate July 26, 2012 at 10:08 pm

This reminds me of the intersection opposite my house. In order to make a right hand turn (I live in Australia, so right hand turns mean turning in front of the oncoming traffic), there’s no arrow and you have to use your judgment. I’ve seen a good deal of accidents from my window – either people being impatient and turning when traffic is approaching, or people running the red light and hitting those making their turn. As a result, I never turn unless it’s absolutely safe to do so.
I’ve been honked at quite a few times by people who seem to think it’s not at all dangerous to go barrelling out into oncoming traffic. Usually I try to keep my road rage to a minimum, but I absolutely cannot stand these impatient people. Sounds like you handled it well OP!

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Cat Whisperer July 27, 2012 at 12:52 am

My daughter got her driver’s license just before she went off to college last fall. She didn’t get to drive at all until she came home for the summer, so she’s been reaquainting herself with LA traffic.

One thing I’ve said to her over and over and over until I know she’s tired of hearing it: “Don’t let anyone else decide for you how you should drive your car!”

The point I’ve made to her is that there will be people who will honk at her, there will be people who will give her the one-finger salute, there will be people who behave in ways that are rude, intimidating and outright dangerous. Doesn’t matter: when you’re behind the wheel of a car, you have to stay in your comfort zone. In today’s posting, maybe Rude Honking Guy felt he had the skill level and confidence to do what OP didn’t feel comfortable doing. Fine for him! OP was right to resist the pressure that his honking put on her to do something she didn’t feel comfortable doing.

That’s what I’ve been trying to get across to my daughter. When you’re the driver, you decide what you’re going to do based on your particular skills, experience, and comfort level. Doesn’t matter what other people might or might not do– they aren’t driving your car. You are.

I’ve also tried to get across to daughter that a lot of the daredevil, adrenalin-fueled aggressiveness that we regularly see only saves the driver a few minutes on the road, max, over the long haul. It just isn’t worth it. If you’re in that much of a hurry, get started on the road a few minutes earlier.

One other point I want to make: don’t be in a hurry to dismiss all honking directed at you as rude. My best friend and I were driving behind a car one day when we happened to notice sparks coming from somewhere underneath it, and then the sparks were replaced by flames! I was driving and I started honking my horn wildly while my friend rolled the passenger side window down and started waving at the driver to try to get her attention. She ignored us for about a minute, then turned and glared at us. I pulled my car alongside hers and she rolled her window down, probably to give us a piece of her mind. My friend yelled at her, “There’s something underneath your car that’s ON FIRE!” about that time, the smoke started billowing. The driver hastily pulled into a parking lot and stopped, and we pulled in behind her. By that time there was a good-sized fire going under the car, and several other cars pulled into the parking lot. A guy got out of one of them with a fire extinguisher and got to work on the fire. A couple of minutes later, a fire truck rolled up, siren blaring; someone had called 911.

The driver thanked my friend and me and apologized for the angry gestures she’d made at us when we first started honking. I told her I’d probably have reacted the same way.

When I was in college, my roommate told me that she’d been driving away from a library where she’d been doing some research and people started honking at her. She thought they were just rude– until her briefcase with her notes, which she’d put on top of the car while she unlocked it and had forgotten and left on top of the car when she started driving, fell off and all her papers went flying everywhere.

Sometimes what seems like rude honking is actually someone desperately trying to get the attention of the other driver. It’s good to keep that possibility in mind.

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