DC – Be More Like Hawaii

We have returned from a twice postponed and much-needed vacation in Hawaii. We spent the entire week in Honolulu but, in our over-priced rental car, we toured the island as we always do, stopping for garlic shrimp at one of the local huts on the North Shore and marveling at the amazing scenery. We had a wonderful birding experience, about which more in another post.

The point now is to highlight an aspect of Hawaii life that we would do well to emulate here in the District of Columbia. It’s not hard to do and would contribute measurably to the quality of life here. Elsewhere as well.

I refer to the fact that virtually no one honks their car horn at other drivers in Hawaii. It is frowned upon as extremely discourteous, rude and … unacceptable. Associated with this wonderful custom is the concept of sharing the road. Traffic on Oahu, the island of which Honolulu occupies a big space and has most of the population, is, well, heavy. And on the few interstates, traffic tends to move fast when fast is possible. It resembles the interstates on the mainland in that regard. If you’re going to survive, you must pay attention to the road and other drivers and not so much the highly distractive surroundings.

That said, when it’s time to exit, giving a signal of your intentions reasonably in advance will almost always result in someone in the lane to your side allowing you to enter that lane and exit. The same is true for changing lanes to get into one whose speed is more comfortable. At congested points within Honolulu, and there are many, drivers, with rare exceptions, alternate with each other at choke points. You don’t have to force your way into the traffic. Other drivers seem to understand that they have been where you are and yield to you, if not willingly, still pretty consistently.

This degree of courtesy on the road can take some getting used to, but it doesn’t take long to realize that this is a culture change, a way of getting along with others who are all trying to do the same thing — reach their destinations safely.

The absence of routine angry horn honking and the common and almost universal courtesy of drivers yielding and sharing space with you makes for a quieter and calmer driving experience and general atmosphere. In DC, where we live now, I am convinced that the propensity of drivers to think they are somehow more important than everyone else and show this with blasting horns and insanely dangerous driving habits, leads to a kind of follow-the-leader atmosphere.  Horn honking leads to more horn honking. Hesitation at a light is not tolerated and often no space is given at merge points without forcing one’s way into the line of traffic. The more of this that occurs, the more it becomes the norm. Bad behavior begets bad behavior.

We can do better. Hawaii is proof that we can learn to accommodate each other, at least in this one respect, so that good behavior begets good behavior. You don’t have to visit Hawaii to figure this out, although it will do you a world of good to spend some time there. More about that in future posts. [I took over 1,000 photos in one week there.] Meanwhile, DC, try to be more like Hawaii.

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