Honking: An L.A. Story

EXASPERATED MAN IN HIS CAR   Original Filename: 10135102.jpgEvery city has its particular characteristics that, for whatever reason –  the culture of the city, the geography (the physical area) of the city, the history of the city – help shape (change) the people who live there. People adapt (take on) certain attitudes, certain characteristics, certain behaviors.

Someone who lives in Los Angeles is called an Angelino (Angelino). In Los Angeles, we Angelinos have our own personality and characteristics. The one I want to talk about today is feeling entitled.

To feel entitled means to feel like you deserve whatever you get, that, in a sense, the world owes you something. To be entitled means to feel that you’re number one, you’re important, and that whatever good things you get, you get because of who you are or what you did. In other words, you’re so good, you’re so wonderful, that the world should treat you like a king or queen.

This is, of course, is a very negative way to describe someone’s personality, but I think it really is true in the city where I live. One of the places you see this sense of entitlement in Angelino culture is on the freeways.

We spend a lot of time in our cars in L.A., and for that reason, we have some of the worst traffic (too many cars on the road) in the United States. We have too many cars for too small of a space, and we don’t have a good public transportation system.

Logically, when you have a lot of people spending a lot of time in their cars and those same people feel entitled, well, that leads to certain problems.

On the freeways, it leads to (results in) a lot of honking. To honk means to make a loud noise with your car by using your car horn. We also use the verb “to beep” your horn. Beeping your horn usually means you are making noise with your horn but for a short time. Honking your horn means that you make noise for a longer time, especially when you’re angry.

When you feel entitled, you feel that everyone else should just get out of your way! This means that there are a lot of impatient drivers in LA. And they honk. A lot.

The situation is very different in other parts of the United States. Back in Minnesota, where I’m from, people honk, of course, but it’s not considered a very nice thing to do. You don’t do it very often, and if you can avoid honking, you do.

The size of the city certainly makes a difference. Los Angeles, like New York or Chicago, is such a big city that you think, “Well, I’m never going to see these people again anyway, and so I don’t really have to care about them.” In a smaller city or town, you may actually know the person you’re honking at, or at least see them again.

So if you ever come to Los Angeles, and you hear me honking at you, don’t take it personally – but do get out of my way!


Photo credit: John Greenfield, CC

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27 Responses to Honking: An L.A. Story

  1. Dan says:

    Hi Jeff,

    I’ll keep that in mind if I’ll ever get the chance of visiting there.
    I would also like to know what’s the typical response to that provocation, I mean, do I have to shout something back after being honked?
    I proudly know a few effective English insults. Do I have to use those, or just show the middle finger?


  2. Dan says:


    I hate those who honk at the traffic lights just after a millisecond the green is off.

    I must confess of using the horn for other purposes. When I see a particularly hot specimen of female, I just let go a small simple “BeeP”
    Not too long, because that is rude. Just a short quick beep to show my appreciation.

    I know, I know that that it’s wrong and should not be done. I believe that’s called “cat calling”


  3. Marcos says:

    Hi Dr. Jeff

    I think every big city have problems with transportations, people spend a long time inside your car or on a public transportation, but here in my city ( 200.000 habitantes ) I don’t remember the last time I used a car horn, sure for years. Sometimes people like you mentioned cross my way and I hate when I stop at a redlight and when it turn green immediately that guy behind my car beeping your car horn, it let me crazy.

    Nice day to us

  4. emiliano says:

    Being a driver for more than thirty years never I liked to honk, it is too rude here in my country
    despite some time there are people that honks.
    It is not usual in Spanish cities, even in Madrid you don´t hear that noisy sound, only if one
    of the driver wants to advise something he/she honks a bit, but it is not usual.

    Madrid is a noisy city, Spanish people speaks too loud, but we don´t like to honk.

    Sorry Jeff, but knowing you as I did, I am sure you don´t honk.

    Again, Thanks a Lot Tania and Mine, I would like to send you my Spanish poems if you like
    them Mine, it would be a honor.


  5. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    You guys shoud drive in Brazil and you would see how Brazilian drivers use to honk for nothing. They drive in high speed and if you are in their way they honk a lot as much as they can. This is the culture here. What can I do?

  6. Dan says:

    Hey Emil.

    Maybe Jeff when is behind the wheel is another man.
    I picture Him with the worse and evil road rage while driving, running over cats and kids and with the vein on his forehead
    pulsing, swearing at anyone crossing his way.

  7. Dan says:

    Hey guys,
    Wanna see my car?
    Google: Fiat 600.
    I know, it’s bad.

  8. Hilario says:

    Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde: We all, surely know of more than one person, even maybe ourselves, who is vastly different in moral character from every life situation, like socializing with friends, teaming at office, at home, or at any other situation in ordinary life, but the same person behaves like a real stupid when he is on the traffic inside the car. There must be with no doubt a deep reason for that big change in behavior. Another point of view is that acoustic pollution is much more than a banal thing, it´s as harmful than other types of contaminations (CO2 emissions) caused by car traffic in our cities. I do not think at all that car horns are useful today for other reason than pollute one of our real beauties which is the absence of noise. Honking it may that has been useful in the beginning of the history of cars, but today is only a source of stress for drivers and the rest of the people, a weird language to insult and curse every other driver or maybe it is a way to free out a little bit of steam instead of kicking to his or her boss. In my humble opinion a federal law should ban to car manufacturers to include a car horn based on environmental and health reasons.

  9. Dan says:

    Hey Hilario,

    I am well aware of that and I must admit that as I get in the car, I change a little bit.

    I find that curious. Good thing I am aware of that. Perhaps many people do not even recognize that.

    It will be interesting what will happen in the future when we’ll be able to have half of our body replaced with machines, like cyborg.
    Think what that would do to our mind/perception.
    I would like to have one of those tools firefighters adopt for opening cars up like tuna fish.
    That way, if someone beep at me, I am going to open their car from the top and throw the culprit with my other arm equipped with a super punch smash head.

  10. Hilario says:

    Hi Dan,
    Do you know the scientific definition of the millisecond time unit? Well, when you´re stopped in first position in front of the traffic light in red color, it is the micro fraction of time passed between the red light turns into green and the beeping made by the driver of the car immediately behind you, right?

  11. emiliano says:

    (but I have a cat)

    I am what here in my country call “the third age”, but I don´t know exactly whena person is in that age.

    What is the second age?, and the first? Silly expresions not to call a person “old” or “elderly” as it is the real adjective when we are going to seventy years or more.
    I have three daughters but not grandsons or granddaughters as they are not in good disposition to be mothers.
    Nearly every friend of mine have grandsons/daughters and they feel themselves very happy.

    As soon the theme is talked, and it is talked always, my friends look at me with great sorrow as thinking “poor man, he hasn´t any grandsons” what a pity.
    Yes I feel that my friends are very sorry by the fact I am old, in age of being grandfather and there is not a children to care, but what can I do?.

    Some time I would like to say, “yes, it is a pity not to have any children to care but I have a cat that gives me great pleasure, love, and lot of fun. Always we are playing and he never is tirerd of playing the same game with me.
    He jumps on me as soon I am sitting on the armchair and rolling on me he gives me warm in winter. My legs and belly are always warm with great pleasure and my dear Gatufo dreams at the same time than me.

    Every night he jumps on the bed and he situated his body between Cuca and me. All night he is dreaming, without moving, the three together in very good harmony and as soon I get up he is at my side and gives me little bites at the same time Gatufo emit little sounds or miauss as saying “good morning” in his language.
    Once I am walking to the bathroom he is at my side walking going everyplace I could go. Always at my side going from a room to another.

    Even if I am sitting on my chair in front of the computer to revise the mails, or the blogs, Gatufo jumps on my lad and close his big eyes to sleep a little more.

    Gatufo is always in good disposition to play, he doesn´t shout, he doesn´t cry, he doesn´t speaks, he doesn´t ask for anything, he is alway in the same mood, he is always at my side giving his love.
    So, what can I say to the people who looks at me and are very sorry because I am not a grandfather.

    No children to talk about them, not any photo of the nice little girl or boy, nothing new about their first steps, or their first words, so yes it is sad for every one who
    could think I am and elderly man without any grandson/daughter and I don´t want to say anything about my Gatufo because a cat is not a nice little children.


  12. Tania says:

    Hi! I had to go to the public library to look for Willa Cather ‘s works, American author (English Cafe 482).
    I just found “O Pioneers!”, a 1913 novel, the first novel of her Great Plains trilogy.
    The main character, Alexandra, devotes her life to maintain and develop their farm when many other immigrant families are giving up
    and leaving the prairie.
    We do not have this theme , pioneers, in our literature, or the frontier theme in the American way.
    But we have “the novel of the land” theme. I have understood Alexandra’s love for their land, a land that had always held the promise of a better life.
    Alexandra is an usual name in my country.
    We translated the title of the novel “The Conquerors of the Prairie”.

  13. Tania says:

    Hi! Some Willa Cather Quotes:

    “John Bergson had the Old-World belief that land, in itself, is desirable.
    But this land was an enigma. It was like a horse that no one knows to break the harness.”

  14. Tania says:

    “I’m a failure. I couldn’t buy even one of your cornfields. I’ve enjoyed a great many things, but I’ve got nothing to show for it all.”
    “But you show for it yourself, Carl. I’d rather have had your freedom than my land.”
    “Freedom so often means that one isn’t anywhere. Hera you are an individual, you have a background of your own, you would be missed.
    But off there in the cities there are thousands of rolling stones like me. We are all alike:
    we have no ties, we know nobody, we own nothing.
    When one of us dies, they scarcely know where to bury him…
    All we have ever managed to do is to pay our rent, the exorbitant rent that one has to pay for a few square feet of space near the heart of things.
    We have no house, no place, no people of our own. We live in the streets, in the parks, in the theatres.”
    “We grow hard and heavy here… and our minds get stiff.”

  15. Tania says:

    Hi! An interesting theme of reflection to me.
    What is right?
    All your life to fight to have more and more money with no usual human pleasures or
    living in a free way, in freedom, with nice week-ends with friends, nice trendy clothes, many trips, summer voyages, visiting other countries?
    Before our “revolution”, one of my teacher had told us: I have visited many other countries, many cities, many famous places, but…
    the price is that I am living with my wife in a small, small apartment. All my wealth is in my soul.

  16. Tania says:

    Hi! Written in 1913, we think that “O Pioneers!” by Willa Cather is a too old book to be read by the new generations.
    But her writing style is very modern, easy to read .
    It was a pleasure to me to read this novel like a nice story.

    Thank you for this wonderful American author.

  17. Tania says:

    Hi! Thank you for the explanation of the American name Willa, the name of Americans for no where by.
    I have not found this explanation in my dictionaries.

  18. Tania says:

    Hi! Independent Bookstores…English Cafe 486… a lesson that went to my soul as we say in my country.
    A very actual theme. Especially simple people crave places to go to interact with other people.
    I like to go to the supermarket, bookstores, even to a bar drinking a tea or a coffee, just to see people, to hear people speaking, laughing,
    especially young people. I feel that I’m alive.
    I like to go to the bank where there are many people, and I can see new ATM with touch screen of new generation, or with new functions.
    Becoming more homogenized, digitized, we have to know the new trends in any area of activities.

  19. Tania says:

    Hi! Even if we are anonymous and our feelings are impersonal, we have to follow the new trends.
    There are few young people in the parks. Where are they?
    Being homogenized, digitized, their pleasure is to be in front of a computer on facebook, or with a tablet with many, many games, with a kindle…
    Books? What is a book for the new generation of children? Without cellphones and many other gadgets?
    Yes, we can have a tactile experience reading a book.
    Depending on our skill, for many of us books are our tools of work.

  20. Tania says:

    Hi! Keeping the love of reading books it’s a great pleasure for our soul.
    And we know that we have too few pleasures in our life.

    Dear Jeff, I think you have a lot of abilities or skills. You are very modest.

  21. Dan Cao says:


    Maybe because China is a developing country, some drivers beep or honk usually. Time is money in my country.
    Of course as you said, the size of a city is very important for its transportation.

  22. Tania says:

    Hi! Memories, memories of childhood, of school… the powers of ten.(English Cafe 485)
    First I thought that it was about the powers of ten people. In fact, it is a 1968 movie, a demonstration of the mathematics power.
    To keep in my mind the maths problems, I solved many, many exercises with the powers of ten, positive or negative.
    A pleasure to me to remember again about all my efforts in the maths field.
    Where n is positive, this indicates the number zeroes after the number, and where the n is negative,
    this indicates the number of decimal place before the number.
    Ten at the 5 power = 100,000
    Ten at minus 5 power = 0, 00001

  23. Tania says:

    Hi! According to Wikipedia, there is the NUMBER GOOGOL = ten at the hundred power.
    Popularised in 1940 book Mathematics and the Imagination, this number was used to compare large numbers.
    The name of this power of ten inspired the name of the company GOOGLE.

  24. Tania says:

    Hi! With negative powers of ten we use
    SI symbol SI prefix
    d deci
    c centi
    m milli
    n nano
    p pico

    With positive powers of ten we use
    SI symbol SI prefix
    da deca
    h hecto
    k kilo
    M mega
    G giga
    T tera

    SI means Le Systeme International d’Unites, The International System of Units , the modern form of the metric system
    that is the world’s most widely used system of measurement.
    And in my country we use The International System of Units.

  25. Tania says:

    Hi! With the SI prefix we use new words.
    For instance, mega bookstore (English Cafe 486), megastar, megaimage, megalomania,

  26. Tania says:

    Hi! Interesting and the Borscht Belt and thre Chitlin’ Circuit.
    Borscht, a kind of soup without fats with vegetables and meat, is an usual food in my country.
    It is recommanded by our physicians in stomach or liver diseases.

  27. Tania says:

    “Lost I am without your smile
    That gives me strength…”

    A poem by Emiliano

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