Monday, August 28, 2006

Horn rage

Have you noticed how mean people can get when they're behind the wheel? (Duh.)

Here's what I'm talking about: You're sitting at a red light waiting for it to turn green. To pass the time, you adjust your radio or look for a different song on your iPod or start talking to your 4-year old in the back seat. All of a sudden the guy in the car behind you lays on his horn like you're the dumbest person who ever lived because you didn't notice the light had turned green a millisecond ago.

Something happens to us inside our cars. (Notice I've switched from 3rd person to 1st person, because, yes, I've done it too.) We turn into the prosecutor, judge, and jury for everyone else on the road. We get incredibly impatient and condemning toward other human beings. And simultaneously, they become stupid idiots who don't know how to drive.

I've often wondered, why is this? What makes us think it's not enough to give a short little "beep" to gently nudge the person in front of us to, maybe, look up at the light that has just turned green? Why do we feel we must creep up behind him or her and blast away?

I guess it has to do with the anonymity and protection our car provides. Our car is a bunker from which we can lob volleys of vitriol at our enemies out there, and they can't do much to defend themselves other than yell or raise a certain finger at us.

I think it's interesting that the same person who would not dare cuss somebody out or push somebody around will, without hesitation, blow his horn at another driver with abandon. Maybe our car horn reveals more about ourselves than about others. Or maybe our car horn is a lot like our tongue. The apostle James warns that "no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against those who have been made in the image of God" (James 3:8-9).

In other words, like the tongue our car horn can be used for good purposes. But it can also be used maliciously, like a weapon of mass destruction. So James would have us remember that when we're looking at other drivers - no matter how much they might irritate us - we're looking at little reflections of God, human beings who have a glory about them whether we see it or not. The message is, treat them with respect and care.


Matthaeus Flexibilis said...

Re using the horn for good purposes: I use my horn to indicate that the "annoying" driver has made a potentially dangerous error (e.g., running a red light, pulling out into traffic and forcing others who were moving quickly to slam on the brakes, etc.). In some of these instances, if the innocent driver(s) happened to be giving less than their full attention to driving at just that moment (adjusting their iPod selections, trying to comfort a screaming toddler, or what not), people could be hurt or even killed because of the annoying driver's irresponsible actions. To distinguish a just horn blowing from an impatient horn blowing, I give it about 5-10 seconds of constant honk. I like to think that that makes the other driver uncomfortable enough that he'll consider his ways more carefully next time (either that, or it gives him time to load his piece). :-)

Mike said...

This is good...a good contribution to the development of a "just horn blowing" theory for the modern church.

Anonymous said...

As I was reading this post, I thought, "Wow, I'm going to have to leave a comment about how Matt has a policy of honking his horn for a length of time proportional to the offense." And then I read the above! I used to be so embaressed by his horn-blowing because I was not a horn honker myself, but I've actually found myself doing it now! And for a long time, if the offense warrants it. I definitely only do a short tap at a light, however. In fact, I'm often the recipient of such "gentle" reminders, since I use red lights to retrieve books, cups, toys, etc. for Evie that have fallen out of her reach, and to blow bubbles at her. A/C vents are wonderful bubble blowers, by the way.

Anonymous said...

And yes, I am embarassed that I misspelled "embarassed." Ha ha.

Matt said...

I noticed that depending on what culture your in, horns mean different things. In Kenya people honk liberally and people dont take it as personally. But when I am in the States it seems SOOO personal.