A Little Toot of the Horn

By R. Sorenson
Tuesday December 30, 2003

Ten minutes into my drive on the Richmond Parkway, on a day with promise in spite of the faint drizzle, I slow down for a traffic light and stop behind a dark dented sedan. The light turns green but the sedan doesn’t move. The back window is opaque, and I can see no one inside. Is the driver ill, I wonder? I hesitate, then tap my horn just once. The driver creeps forward, and I swing around him, barely registering the dark stocking hat and the scowl as I pass. Happy to be unimpeded in the light traffic, I focus on the road until I notice something zooming up behind me. The dark sedan is veering into my lane, nearly kissing my gas cap with the handle of the driver’s door. 

For the first time since leaving the house this morning, I’m aware that I have a stomach and that it can twitch wildly when provoked. At times like this when my heart beats fast and my hands grow cold, I worry that my decades-old cardiac stent will fail. 

I race to the turnoff for the Richmond-San Rafael bridge and am greeted by the horror of the left-turn arrow changing from green, to yellow, to red. My eyes, my primitive sentries, dart back and forth between the red arrow and the rearview mirror. The sedan has stopped two feet behind me. I cannot make out the features of the driver, but watch as he slowly leans over toward his glove compartment. The left arrow is still red. I don’t care. I step on the gas and race up the ramp heading toward the bridge. The sedan is coming on strong. 

One goddamned honk! Is this how my life will end? Over one little honk?  

Obviously one honk too many for a member of that sub-species known as hypermasculinist extremist who is following me. By the time I reach the toll booth I am trembling and nauseous. He pulls into the booth next to mine, and I reach up and rub my chest, finally taking a breath. Keeping my eye on him, I smooth out each dollar bill and hand them to the toll-taker as though I were a child forced to part with her last two cookies, then ask for a receipt. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let him get behind me again. He leaves the toll booth and joins the line of cars crossing the bridge. The man at my booth hands me a receipt, and I maneuver over into the right-hand lane. The sedan is several cars ahead of me, and soon I lose sight of it. I shudder when I realize I could have been toast. Just like that! My friends would wail, “Why her?” The answer comes to me as I begin to breathe normally again. “Why not me?” Yes, of course, I’m special; yes, I’m kind; yes, I’m funny, a wonderful friend and lots of other things, but so are many of the thousands of people killed every day at the hands of young men who smoulder with rage. The ones whose imaginations are fed by the 26,000 murders they see on TV by the time they’re 18.  

Perhaps he’s smart enough not to shoot me on the bridge; perhaps he’s waiting on the other side. I know I could move into the center lane, but then I would be likely to miss the exit to Sir Frances Drake Blvd. which comes quickly after the bridge, and besides, now I’m pissed. I may be shaking, but I will not be bullied. And, I reason, he’s probably not that good of a shot. I’ll be a speeding target with one hand on my cell phone. 

When at last I reach my destination and realize I haven’t been killed or followed, I turn off the ignition and slump back exhausted into my seat. I give thanks to my angels who heard me scream, “Help me, help me!” as he reached for what surely was a gun. I ask them to watch over this young man, to help him forge a life where he no longer nurses a rage and where he will have more to live for than the momentary satisfaction of teaching some bitch a lesson because of a little toot of the horn.