When drivers horn in on your lane
Riding through a Third World country in a hired car, P.J. O'Rourke's driver suddenly stopped the vehicle and announced they could go no farther. The celebrated war correspondent and humor writer asked why.
"The horn is broken," the driver explained.
It was no joke. Driving in that crowded, backward country where the rules of the road were largely hypothetical, a car's horn was as important as the gas pedal or the brake.
Lately, I've been feeling the same way about Honolulu. I never used to use my horn, other than as a friendly wake-up call to the driver ahead of me at a stoplight who chose to take a little nap at the intersection.
Now I seem to use the horn every time I am on the road. The main reason is that so many Hawaii drivers have decided that the side of the road they want to drive on isn't the right side or left side, but YOUR side. Generally on turns, but not necessarily, you find yourself facing an oncoming vehicle whose pilot seems to think the road's center line should line up with the center of his car. And so honking your horn to rouse these knuckleheads from their torpor becomes mandatory.
I wondered for a while why everyone from soccer moms to geriatric cases suddenly wants to play chicken. The answer is that the road simply isn't big enough for both of us. It used to be, before everyone got SUVs the size of M-1 tanks. Now drivers feel compelled to encroach on your lane with entirely no regard to your opinion on the matter. And since I drive a small, little pickup truck, the offending behemoth vehicles could crush me like a small, little pickup truck. It's like island roadways have become the location of an exciting new movie sequel: "Mad Maximum Overdrive Meets Smokey and the Bandit Road Warrior in Hazzard County."
And so I find myself using my horn the way the Starship Enterprise uses photon torpedoes. I blast away at oncoming hostile craft until they concede enough pavement to allow me to slip by without wiping more than a few of my neighbors' mailboxes. I start off with short staccato bursts at the incoming missile and then increase the frequency until I am leaning on the horn with my whole body, waving my hands wildly in the air until the person at the wheel ahead puts down his plate lunch or copy of "War and Peace" and decides to engage in the bothersome act of actually driving his automobile once again.
Operating a moving vehicle is an auxiliary concern for these people. Their main employment is discussing that night's dinner menu with their spouse on a cell phone. And to do that effectively, they need room. A lot of room. They need your side of the road. They are conducting important business. If your life were as important as theirs, you'd have a bigger car. And that's why they get so mad at you when they finally notice you honking your horn like a maniac. How dare you honk! Where do you think you are, Bangladesh?
Buy Charles Memminger's hilarious new book, "Hey, Waiter, There's An Umbrella In My Drink!" at island book stores or online
at any book retailer. E-mail him at email@example.com