~first posted 12 Feb 13
You may have heard that we had a bit of snow recently here on the Eastern seaboard. Where I live, on the north shore of Long Island, our little New England hamlet got thirty inches of the stuff, with fifty mile per hour winds raising drifts over six feet. If snow can be biblical, this was getting close, at least for those of us who don’t live in North Dakota. We were literally “snowed in” by drifts halfway up the doors and windows. So you can surmise how happy and thrilled we all were to finally be plowed out at the wee hours of this morning. Free at last! None too soon, either, as I’ve had to remove all the knives from the kitchen and throw them out a second story window–the wife and I were getting a little “stir crazy.”
Today is a beautiful, blue sky day in the mid-forties, with bright sunshine sparkling off the still pristine whiteness blanketing everything. You’d think that everyone would be kind, and happy, and pleasant, just thrilled to be alive. You’d be wrong.
So, just now I was driving merrily along our recently plowed streets, doing one of the many things I couldn’t do because I was “snowed in.” The roads are still very narrow, with huge banks of snow on each side. We’re all driving around at about thirty miles per hour, even on the main streets. So there I was, approaching an intersection with a red light, several cars already stopped to wait for the signal. I notice a car inching out of a side street just ahead, trying to see around the huge drift. Being the guy I am (we’ll get to that), I stop and wave him in. As he waves back and moves in, the guy in the car behind me leans on his horn. Really. Not a toot. A real extended blare. Twice.
Now, I know that this has happened to you. It has happened to me lots of times, not to mention all those times the jerk in the Mustang behind you honks if you don’t jackrabbit off the line within 3 milliseconds of the light turning green. When I was (much) younger, and in a time when not everyone was packing a pistol in their glove compartment, I remember responding once by sticking the car into park and walking back to the asshole. When I knocked on the window and he rolled it down, I asked if I knew him. No, he stammered, and started swearing. Well, I said, I’m sorry, but when he honked I looked in the mirror and he looked kinda familiar and I figured he honked because he was Billy who I hadn’t seen in, oh, must be almost six years now, but you’re right, you’re not Billy, really don’t look much like him at all now that I can see you up close, so I’ll just be going then. I got back in my car and timed it just right so the light was yellow again, allowing me to give the guy one of those “ain’t life funny” shrugs that I like to give guys like that as we sit through another cycle of life/traffic light together. Try that now and the dude will shoot you in the eye.
On this occasion, we’re sitting in a line of stopped cars waiting for a red light. On what basis does one deserve a honk for that? But I’m in luck, as the light cycles but Mr. Honker and I don’t make it through, ending up side by side. I couldn’t resist (again, don’t try this if you live in Arizona), so I rolled down my window. I was genuinely curious to learn why the guy had honked at me. He was pretty old, very late sixties or early seventies, and looked to be a reasonably pleasant person on the surface. Maybe he was rushing because his great-great grand daughter was in labor and he was afraid that I would make him miss the delivery. I didn’t know. Never going to know, either.
Elderly Mr. Honknose rolls down his passenger window and turns beet-red, yelling that “It’s over-courteous assholes like you (meaning me) that are going to get me (meaning him) killed.” He embellishes this with the standard set of NY resident traffic epithets that one must memorize to pass the driver’s license exam in this state. Then the light changes and he spews snow/ice/salt/phlegm onto nearby pedestrians by flooring it and roaring through the intersection. Never got a word in.
I was offended. I think that I’m a good driver. I know that this is subjective, and others describe my driving differently. My wife, for instance. She describes my driving style as “old womanly.” Please note that my wife is devoutly opposed to any use of the brake for any reason and at any time. I describe her style of driving as “bat out of Hell.” Today, however, marks the first occasion when I have been called an “overcourteous asshole.” I have marked the calendar. I wish to formally announce that I am licensing for my own use the phrase “overcourteous asshole” and even the word “overcourteous,” now and forever. I will be releasing a line of hats, shirts, and bumper stickers featuring such catchy phrases as “Warning: Overcourteous Asshole at the Wheel” and “I Brake for Overcourteous Assholes!” As for the old geezer who actually came up with the phrase, he can suck wind. He’s not overcourteous.