Several people have told me that they’ve spotted me out and about on the roads of New London. Either I’m out on a run somewhere on the fringes of the city or I’m in the heart of downtown, strolling along with an attaché case.
There are plenty of reasons why I prefer walking into downtown to driving. The top three are probably 1) It’s good exercise, 2) the slower pace allows you to spot things you might miss otherwise, like that $50 bill I found on State Street, and 3) it saves gas money along with wear and tear on my car.
Narrowly missing the top three: I keep my blood pressure down by not swearing a blue streak at whatever idiot blares his horn at me as soon as the light turned green.
I know I’m far from alone in this annoyance. Most drivers don’t engage in this activity, except perhaps for a friendly toot if the person ahead of them is daydreaming and hasn’t noticed that the light has changed. And one classic article in The Onion took on this issue with the sarcastically titled “Your Honking Has Shown Me The Error Of My Ways.”
But for some reason, last Monday seemed to be some sort of unofficial holiday for this annoyance. Just from walking past a few intersections I witnessed maybe half a dozen drivers leaning on their horn half a second after the signal turned green.
“Oh, shut up,” I finally grumbled at one line of cars. “You think you’re in Boston?”
Anyone who’s been to Boston can attest that this is pretty much par for the course there. I think some drivers must have their arm strategically placed over the wheel, ready to learn down and blast an auditory insult if for some reason the five cars in front of them aren’t rolling a microsecond after the light says they’re able to. I wonder if, as a reflex, these drivers waste a few seconds with the horn even if they’re first in line.
I once heard someone commenting on the radio that they considered the length of time between a light turning green and a horn going off as an indicator of the friendliness of the community. He noted how his new home, Seattle or some other place in the Pacific Northwest I believe, was such that drivers would patiently wait for perhaps several seconds before indicating that maybe it’s time to get moving.
There may yet be one of those Pleasantville kind of towns in this country where pies cool on windowsills and kids decide that it’s a swell afternoon for a trip to the malt shop. Assuming this town is even big enough to have a traffic light, drivers probably wait until the signal changes back to red and then get out to see if the person in front of them is OK.
New London generally falls on the friendlier side of the spectrum, so hopefully that Monday was just a fluke. If not, knock it off already. You’ll get there eventually.