Like Daphne Zuniga in Tim

Like Daphne Zuniga in Tim Robbins’ Car

Philly drivers stink. They’re less aggressive than New York drivers, but they’re more passive-aggressive. In New York, if you leave a gap in front of you, a cab will cut you off, but it’s nothing personal, and no one makes a big deal about it. Philly drivers emote a lot, and what they emote is ugly.

Take honking: New York has one honk, pretty much: the admonitory “get out of my way!” honk. To that, Philadelphia adds the punitive honk: “hey, you were in my way!” It’s a whiny and infuriating honk, and deserves only one response.

To wit: Kate and I were at a one-lane intersection, waiting to turn right. A semi tractor was blocking the lane we wanted, so we couldn’t pull out yet. The car behind us, going straight, tapped the horn. Then tapped it again. Then a third time, at which point Kate turned around and made a standard “hey, what can I do?” shrug.

So the truck moves, we pull out, and the car pulls around us and gives us the Philadelphia Passive-Aggressive Punishment Honk: “Hey, you slowed me down! Honkitty honk HONK!” What happened next, Kate describes as “losing her ladylike composure”, but I think is the only appropriate response in the situation: she turned around and administered the Five-Star Punishment Honk Antidote with both fingers. It was well-timed and well-administered: frankly, I think Miss Manners would have advocated it.

Unfortunately, however, the truck hadn’t pulled up that far, and we drifted gently into the bumper guard, cracking the turn signal and the headlight. Which means, if the other car saw it, they win: but if they didn’t see it, we win. The truck, on its part, didn’t even notice.

What happened next was more astonishing to me: Kate drove three block’s to Jimmy’s garage, where Carol — the woman behind the desk — cheered her up with funny stories and Jimmy himself came out to take a look. Five hours later, Carol called Kate to tell her the parts were in. It’s getting fixed right now.

So, on balance, I think that Jimmy’s garage makes up for the Philadelphia Punishment Honk. And the stylish, direct, and forceful manner in which the Five-Star Antidote was administered was a joy to behold. Key takeaway: I’m marrying the right woman.

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