THE INTERSECTION – Look at that idiot. He (or she, with those heavily tinted car windows, it’s hard to tell the driver’s gender or even the species) is running a red light. Where is a cop? Or even a camera, so the lawbreaker could get an admonishing note from the HPD? So I honk and think of Carol Harris.
My noise-making is unusual because we don’t actually hear much honking around Houston, certainly not like in New York City where every intersection is an official Taxi Cab Honking Zone, often accompanied by gestures and shouts in Bangladeshi and/or Swahili. No, in Houston we rarely hear Gabriel or anyone else blowing his horn. There is a simple reason for this: fear. A honk in Houston is a call to arms, a request to play target, a road to rage. How many times have we read in the newspapers about gunfire being exchanged by two motorists after one driver, quite within his or her God-given powers, gets cut off and answers the challenge with a blast from an AK-47? It’s the Texas way. I often think our state motto should be: “Shoot Friendly” or “One Car, One Gun.”
To be fair, former DA Johnny Holmes once estimated that only one out of every three motorists in Houston was armed, but that was before the State Legislature, in its wisdom, passed the Concealed Weapons Act. It is based on our Second Amendment right to keep and bear bazookas. So today, the ratio for handguns-to-glove-compartments is, indeed, probably one to one.
There are many reasons Houston drivers defend themselves from marauding motorists. For example, if you leave a little space between your vehicle and the car in front so you won’t rear-end it in case of a quick stop, you can be guaranteed that another car will jam in between you two, thus making you drop back even farther. Also, there are cases of blatant use of turn signals. In Houston, using your turn indicator is frowned upon.
More grounds for anger mismanagement are those phone users who cannot walk and chew gum at the same time, thus they can’t drive and talk simultaneously. These drivers are easy to spot: They have a long black phone cord running out their trunk. But the worst motorists on our roads, the ones we see speeding, weaving, driving and endangering everyone else, are called “wrecker drivers.”
There are certain vehicles to avoid challenging. First are those whose hood ornaments are a sniper-scope with cross hairs. The same goes for pickup trucks with tail-gunners. We’ve all seen those bumper stickers reading: “Keep honking, I’m re-loading.” Others to watch for are: “I’d Rather Be Knee-Capping” and “Ask Me About My Parole.”
On the other hand, there is one occasion which I now think qualifies as justifiable honking: the red-light runners. They are dangerous, discourteous and their numbers multiply by the day while knocking off the rest of us at the same rate. So I have taken to blasting my horn at these jerks with all my might, but one must be very, very careful because conditions have to be explicit. I must be in the lead car stopped at a red light. If I am behind the lead car then my musical rebuke might be taken by the driver in front as saying, “The light turned green, dummy, so start through the intersection. Never mind the danger.” Such a mistaken belief of my impatience can lead to unpleasant repercussions, not to mention concussions. This reaction is understandable. If I am the lead car, and the motorist behind me starts blasting his horn the moment the light turns green, that could be a legal basis for my quick use of a tire iron.
Perhaps if red-light runners were greeted by resounding honking from other motorists, the miscreants would feel guilty and mend their ways. Dream on, for we are dealing with a cretin who has the manners of a sewer rat. Still, it would make everyone else feel better by releasing a little pent-up fury. If my honk-at-the-heathens program fails to solve the problem, we could turn to City Hall for a solution. Mayor Bill White’s plans to put cameras at major intersections to snap photos of red-light runners is moving along, so maybe we could take his idea one step further and shoot those who endanger the rest of us with something stronger than cameras. I suggest a Taser.
All of which brings us to Carol Harris of Oakland, Calif. Harris was driving down a street when she spotted a labor union’s picketing outside the Claremont Resort and Spa in protest against rising health care costs and other issues. So she, as do all of us at one time or another, honked in support, as if to say, “Right on!” She then joined almost 40 motorists who were ticketed by the police for “unreasonable use of horn,” specifically violating a California Vehicle Code section prohibiting the use of horns except “when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation” of vehicles or as part of a theft-prevention system. She was fined $143, but appealed, saying the police violated her First Amendment rights.
I don’t think of honking as a First Amendment issue, but when it comes to red- light runners, I should be covered by the Second Amendment. H