Sitting at a light in the left turn lane the other evening, I was waiting for the car ahead of me to turn. I had left a gap of about half a car length between us, because I did not want to be caught in the intersection if the light changed before I, too, could turn. A sensible decision, all in all. The man in the car behind me didn?t think so and so honked his horn, urging me forward. I resisted the impulse to a rude gesture and scowled at him in the rear view mirror. ?Where did he expect me to go,? I thought. I really couldn?t go anywhere until the car in front of me moved and he was kept in place by the oncoming traffic. At times like this, it is tempting to just get out of the car and go back and ask the individual, politely of course, just what his problem is. There was a time when you could have done such a thing in relative safety.
In the early 50s, we were caught in a traffic jam in downtown Detroit. Traffic was at a complete standstill and everyone sat silently in their cars, waiting for some change in the situation. Everyone, except for one individual to the left and to the rear of us. Unable to contain his growing anger at the delay, he began honking his horn. HONK, HONK, HONK (pause a few seconds) HONK, HONK, HONK. I don?t remember just how long this went on, but it probably would have continued until traffic began moving again had the driver in front of him not taken things into his own hands. His door opened and he got out of the car, his face set into an angry scowl. As the people in the other cars watched, he walked back to the offending car, popped the hood (you could do that in those days), reached inside, grabbed the horn wire and pulled it from its connection. He then slammed the hood back down, grimaced defiantly at the car?s owner (actually, he pushed his face at him, you know the gesture) and went back to his own car, slamming his door so hard as he got in (the slam was more visible than audible) that the car swayed with the violence of the act. The driver of the offending car did nothing, deterred in part because other drivers around him all tooted their horns in appreciation of his silencing and, in part I think, because the other guy might have been bigger than he was. This made a mighty impression on my 10-year old mind and I likened the act to something Superman would do, meting out justice fairly and impartially to the tooting of appreciative horns.
This could never happen in today?s world. At best, assault charges would be filed, possibly an arrest made and, with it, a recommendation of counseling to control what would be viewed a violent temper. The honker, of course, gets off scot free; free to continue his ways as an obnoxious son-of-a-bitch. At worst, in a situation like this, there is the likelihood of a violent physical confrontation and one can?t help but visualize two men crouching down behind their cars, shooting it out as onlookers scramble for safety. The scenarios are endless and Superman doesn?t figure in any of them anymore.