I don’t know when exactly it happened, but I have become that New York driver—the one who honks to remind others of his existence, who honks as he passes, who honks when the light turns green, who honks when confronted with any uncertainty or delay. I don’t want to be this driver, and yet I am this driver*, and Kina has begun to wonder why I am this driver, and so I’ve had to explain it to her.
Invariably, when I honk at somebody—even gently, if you can summon a gentle honk—Kina asks “WHO HONKED THAT HORN??” as if there were a line-up of suspects that did not include me. Daddy did it, we tell her. “Why did he honk his horn?” she asks.
Why did I honk my horn?
“I honked because the person in front of me will get hurt because they aren’t being careful.”
“I honked because the traffic is going very fast and the car in front of me stopped, and I don’t want you and Mommy to get hurt.”
“I honked because the light is green and nobody is going.”
There are two strange behaviors that Kina has adopted since she’s begun to notice my incessant honking. First, she honks a lot more when she’s pretending to drive a car. “Go!!!!!! MOVE!!!!!” she will shout to Hello Kitty in the stroller in front of her; this is mortifying to observe. Second, she now insists that I continue to drive even at red lights, yelling that I am driving too slow and that “the song is almost over”. (Forever my child, Kina only really loves music in the car when we’re driving full-tilt down the highway.)
The thing about being a big honker is that you do not have to deal with the consequences of your actions. People honk because it’s one of the few reasonably defensible ways to be visibly angry at other human beings, and it is so hard for the subject of that anger to respond to it in any substantive way. We tootle down the BQE, wrapped in steel cages and listening to Mariah Carey’s holiday classic “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, blasting our horns at each other and mouthing obscenities, with (hopefully) little chance that we will be held responsible for our rage. At the end of our drive, we step out of our little anger box and are restored to the blissful state of civility in which our carless progenitors must have spent their entire uncaged lives. You cannot honk a horse, and if you could, your fellow equestrian would just whack you on the head. Encase the horse in glass, you say! This is how cars were invented.
And so the wonderful and mortifying thing about Kina being in the back seat of my car is that I now have somebody holding me accountable for my honking. I must at best explain myself, and at worst live with a smaller version of me who is equally unpleasant at stop lights. I have not yet scaled back on the honking, but I am measurably more embarrassed by it. This is parenthood. Get out of my way.
P.S. I am quite proud of my Sendak-esque portrait of Kina today.
*A particularly telling detail about how much of a honker I am: When I purchased our car, one of the factors I did not list out but definitely strongly considered was the sound of the horn.