Mountain View, California and Bangalore, India

I have a new blog friend, Ari. Okay I have a lot of new blog friends (hi!), but this one happens to live and work in Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India. Mountain View, California is called the Silicon Valley and I used to live in California. We’re practical related. Anyway, I found Arindam UnPlugged one day while I was out tag surfing. I came across his post The Indian Signal Spectacle and laughed my ass off. Read it, you won’t be sorry. Besides, it helps this post make sense. Well . . . maybe not, but read it anyway.

The whole time I was reading his post I was stunned by his client, Steve from Chicago. Mr. Chicago seemed to be shocked and dismayed by the traffic customs in Ari’s metropolis. “Surely, Steve has driven or, at the very least, ridden in a car somewhere in the US of A,” was the thought that replayed in my head all the way through the post. I just hate it when people misrepresent and now find I must correct Ari’s impression of driving in America.

The first thing to strike me as odd was when the man from the windy city asked why the other drivers at a long stop light were honking their horns. Really?

This question actually came from a resident of one of the horn-honking capitals of the world? Standard hand placement on the wheel of the vehicle accommodates one to steer and one to honk. Honking is practically a national pastime. Fines up $250 for using the horn unnecessarily have been implemented, but no one seems particularly concerned and the clamor of toots and blasts continues unabated.

Steve’s next moment of amazement came as the result of a cyclist cutting between vehicles. Come on Steve, you never wanted to “clothes line” the twerp in the latex shorts and plastic helmet dodging in and out of traffic? Please.

“Steve had come in from a culture where people are accustomed to follow lane discipline.” Oh yeah, we have exceptional skills when it comes to staying in our lanes. No one ever curses some nimrod motorist straddling the line or cutting them off after flying down the median. Perhaps commuters in India have figured out how to deal with a tight squeeze, but we’re still having a little trouble with that one.

We also have a quaint custom of communicating directly with our fellow drivers. We are passionate about it and make sure we practice every day.

This interaction can be verbal or non-verbal and conducted through the use of hand gestures, signs and, of course, the car horn. There are some media types that like to exaggerate and call it “road rage,” but it’s really just friendly conversation. Our way of letting our compatriots on the road know how we feel about their brilliant driving skills.

Yeah, driving in good, ole America is a walk in the park. Just make sure you have 911 on speed dial, your pepper spray close at hand and emergency foodstuffs in the trunk for those really bad traffic days. And please . . . don’t forget to honk if . . .

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