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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Spanish Driver’s Guide to Horn Honking

In another essay I wrote about how we could reduce horn honking

The first thing you must remember about driving in Spain is that horns are not a way to warn people; they are used as weapons. Think of a horn as the passive-aggressive version of punching someone in the face. I’ve actually seen driving instructors encouraging their pupils to use the horn as a tactical weapon. You absolutely never pass up an opportunity to lean on your horn; if you show even a shred of restraint then you are failing as a driver—and don’t ever confuse drivers with human beings because these are two very separate life forms as people go through a transformation once they are under internally-combusted power. 

It’s like the old joke that Italians gesticulate so much when they talk that if you tie them up they are rendered mute. A horn is as essential to a Spanish car as the engine. This noise-making device gets as much usage as the tires.  

After you learn that only indiscriminate use of your horn is permissible, the next lesson is just how much horn to apply in any given situation. This can be broken down into four applications.

1 – Just a Brief Tap

Just tapping your horn is the method least used in street situations, and is appropriate in only occasional and very narrowly defined circumstances. I can’t list every case when a brief tap is adequate but here are a few examples.

-To test your horn before you start driving. If your horn isn’t working consider public transport.

-Someone in a wheelchair isn’t showing sufficient hustle in clearing the crosswalk. Give them a tap for motivation.

-You want to say something to your child sitting in the passenger seat beside you but they’re wearing headphones and doing their level best to ignore you.

2 – A Good, Solid Honk (GSH)

If you aren’t honking like this a couple of dozen times every time you get behind the wheel then you're doing it wrong. How else can you get your point across to the jerk in front of you who hasn’t sent his vehicle in motion the split second the light turns green…or even before? Constantly honking your horn is what keeps traffic moving smoothly, and it’s what separates us from the animals. Not honking when you have every right to honk is a sign of weakness that other drivers will use to humiliate you. Don’t let that happen! A GSH is also used to say hello to pedestrians and other drivers, and don’t worry about frightening the bejesus out of unsuspecting passersby.

3 – A 2-3 Second Blast

Now it’s starting to get interesting. This is when you would really like to knock someone out except that you are way too much of a coward to confront anyone physically, so you let your horn do the punching for you. Allowing another driver to merge is almost never done here without a good, hard blast on the horn. Civility and driving just don't seem to mix.

4 – Just Go Ahead and Lean on that Damn Horn

This obnoxious paroxysm of rage is reserved for the most serious offenses, but this doesn’t mean they are rare. Much like war crimes committed during WWII, reasons to employ this method of horn honking are all around you if you’re paying attention. Being stuck in traffic is no fun, but leaning on your horn gives you something to do and perhaps the sound waves emitted from dozens of angry horns will somehow push the jam along like a plunger releasing a clogged drain. Leaning on your horn is the only way to address crimes against humanity such as someone double-parked in front of you when you want to leave. Sure, you’ve committed the same offense at least three times on this same day, but rules are rules and you’re no maverick.

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