When is a honk more than a honk?
It’s always good to be on the same page. And anyone who has been driving for a respectable amount of time knows that there is a certain language of the road; it’s just something you pick up after years spent treading pavement. Of course, there is the obvious one digit salute that designates a strong feeling of emotion when directed at another driver, and this needs no explanation. Obviously I’m talking about giving the thumbs up gesture here, but everyone knows this. Below are a few more beeps and body mimes that I’ve encountered and studied for scientific reasons.
Interpreting Car Speak: Hand Gestures
Hand gestures are few and pretty straightforward, serving no real purpose with the exception of one mightily important scenario: If you’re sitting in traffic anywhere, anytime, and someone lets you into the lane you want to occupy, give them a wave. It doesn’t have to be a drunken Mardi Gras salute, just a quick ‘thanks,’ and you’re on your way.
Flipping the bird definitely gets the point across, for better or worse, though you’re more likely to run into the ‘wildly gesticulating nonsensical spasm’ type of hand movements from angry drivers. If you’ve ever seen this, it’s quite hilarious, and is usually done by people who would never confront someone face to face. Which is fine, I just don’t get the gesture. It seems as though said person is so frustrated, that they just resort to spastic, aggressive motions, unable to properly convey how they feel at the time. Wildly gesticulating nonsensical spasm guy, I salute you, and I hope you find what you’re looking for someday.
Interpreting Car Speak: Honks
Weapon of choice for many and so rarely used right, the honk is typically used in short bursts, or heard at 5:30 in the morning when your still asleep neighbors attempt to open an alarmed vehicle. There does seem to be a strange cadence to it all, however, and this is my interpretation of it all.
Short honk: Usually meant to be polite, you’d use the short honk to let a car in front of you know that yep, the light has definitely turned green, so put down your phone or fries or MCAT test book. The short honk is also done in two bursts, and is usually directed at passing cyclists or walkers, generally meant as a ‘hey’ or ‘I approve’ type of bonding experience.
Long honk: At the opposite end of the short honk, long honking is rarely perceived as positive. It’s used in dire situations, when someone drifts into your lane, cuts you off, or generally acts a fool in any way. The recipient of the long honk is often known to respond with the wildly gesticulating nonsensical spasm, whether they were in the right or wrong. The long honk can also be repeated for extra effect.
Combination long honk, followed by short honk: This just puts extra emphasis on the long honk, and means the one doing it is extra badass.
Combination short honk, followed by long honk: Driver is possibly having a medical emergency; get out and check on them.
Jangly horn sounding like the song Turkey in the Straw: This is the ice cream truck, flag him down and enjoy some Ninja Turtle pops with the gum for eyes.
So there you have it, the definitive guide to Interpreting Car Speak. I hope you all learned something here. I know I have. Stay tuned to CarWoo! for more instructional material, including “Gun and Weapon Waving” and “How to Say I’m Sorry Through the Window.”