I was out on a run this morning, and a guy honked at me.
Context: I run in the wee predawn hours, while most of the normals are still asleep. And I run in the suburbs of a fairly rural county. (Depending on the direction I go, I can pass more cows than cars on the road. And no matter which way I go, there will surely be roosters crowing.) This means streetlights are scarce and trees are ubiquitous.
What I’m saying is, as much as I love my generally peaceful starlit runs, they are scary, too. And I say that, fully cognizant that as a good-sized white dude, I probably have less to fear from the world at large than anybody in a similar circumstance.
I can’t see very far. Anything could be lurking in the trees. And despite my day-glo reflective vest, I can never be entirely sure that the oncoming car is going to see me or not. I mean, the driver is out before 5 in the morning — they’re probably sucking down coffee or shaving or applying their makeup or stuffing their face with a buttered biscuit, expecting (fairly!) zero human contact on our sleepy back roads. They’re not expecting to see a lunatic pounding the pavement with his idiot dog in tow.
All of which is to say: there I am, running. I hear the car coming up from behind. I see its headlights illuminating the trees along the roadside. Then, as it passes me: BEEEEEYOWWWWWWW.
Nice, firm blast. Not the quick, cheery ‘toot’ of “good morning, fellow early riser.” This is laying-on-the-horn. This is “you deliberately blocked the intersection in front of me, and now I can’t go, and nobody behind me can go, and now NOBODY ANYWHERE CAN GO SO I WILL HONK AT YOU IN FUTILITY.” This is the vilest of expletives delivered without words.
And because I’m out running in the scary night and I’m always a little on edge in that situation, I jump off the road and stumble into a ditch. Dog gets tangled up in my legs and starts yowling. It’s chaos.
Here’s the thing, though. I’ve been honked at before, and every other time, the driver adds some comment to clarify his communication (strangely enough, it’s always a “him,” innit?). Lots of times I can’t make it out because they can barely get the window open in time to shout it out and the doppler effect or their naturally neandarthalic speech smears the words into an unrecognizable buzz. Lots of homophobic slurs, for some reason. Tons of “idiot”s or “a-hole”s. I even had a car slow down and pace me for a good, solid minute once. That was scary.
But none of that this time. Just the horn in the dark and a drive into the night. And it left me wondering, as I climbed out of the ditch and untangled my dog’s leash, “why?”
Why beep at a runner in the dead of night? A runner, mind you, on the opposite side of the road, whom you are in no danger of hitting, who is causing you no inconvenience, who might well be one of your neighbors?
I have some theories.
- He just wanted to let me know he was coming. This is a favorable interpretation, but a dumb one, because a car coming down a dark road with its lights on is the most noticeable dangerous thing possible for me.
- He wanted me to know that he thinks I’m a jerk for running on the road. Sorry, pal. Gonna need a little more clarification than that. Say it to my face. (I bet I can outrun you.)
- He saw something in the trees and wanted to warn me of the danger. Again, unlikely, but hey, I can still be charitable.
- He hates runners because a runner once killed his brother, and he now wages a private crusade against all runners by honking at them. Sorry, bro.
- He just noticed a bee in the car and hit his horn in the ensuing panic for his life. If this was the case, I totally understand.
- His horn just goes off sometimes. That’s okay, honey. It happens to all guys sometimes. Still, maybe get it checked out.
- I offended his life choices as a fat slob with my in-your-face running lifestyle, and he had to voice his displeasure.
- What he really wanted to do was cross the center line and run me over, but in lieu of a murder charge, he honked his horn instead.
- He thought I was a luminous, highly reflective monster coming to devour him and his entire lineage, and he honked to scare me back into the night.
- He thinks I’m awesome and wants me to keep it up.
Yeah, we’ll go with #10.