As a relatively young driver — and an avid street crosser — getting honked at is a common occurrence.
Just the other day, as I was crossing Emmett Street — at the crosswalk, mind you — an older man in a silver SUV blared his horn at me so furiously that onlookers likely took me for a bank robber or a third-degree murderer. Or at least someone who had made a marginal error.
The man in the silver SUV didn’t accomplish much by honking, unless his goal was to scare the living daylights out of me. And though I’ve never consulted the Commonwealth of Virginia’s official street-crossing handbook, I am quite confident that I did not violate any obscure traffic rules that afternoon.
But no matter how resentful I am or how much this incident still haunts my commutes to class, I have to give the man props.
Obviously, he was upset with me, but at least he assured me of it. That ability can be hard to come by when one isn’t sheltered in the safety of an SUV.
When you’re living in the quasi-real world of college and are constantly surrounded by a weird variety of student behavior, there are inevitably times when someone does something which bothers you. In a culture so fixated in chatter, you would hope we would at least be confident enough to use our words effectively in such cases, but in fact the opposite is true.
I often feel that our ability to process language is a waste of an evolutionary advantage, with much of it utilized solely to circumnavigate issues which could so easily be hashed out in conversation. Rather than using our voices to communicate, we use words as a way to dilute what we really want to say. As a result, we are left perpetually oblivious to consequences of our actions and the way people really feel about us.
It would be less nerve-racking if people honked at me for committing the occasional slip-up instead of smothering me with passive-aggressive frustration. What’s holding us back from being a little more honest?
It is easy enough to ask me how recent my last bank visit was or how often I clean my room at home — and it would be just as easy to tell me that I owe you money or need to vacuum the living room, if only we didn’t feel the incessant need to be nice about it.
Though I am typically a woman of few words, I do appreciate the value of conversation.
If our only means of communication was through the honking of horns, there would be no way to pass on stories, share laughs or express the complexity of the ways in which we think about things.
I know it wouldn’t be wise of me to wish that our voices could only ring as flatly as the drone of bustling traffic. But it is equally unwise to take the human ability to communicate for granted. Words are a gift to humankind — so what exactly do we gain from neglecting to use them to convey our true feelings?
Vega’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.