Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Devil You Know

They say it's best to know thine enemy, and apparently mine is a good-natured man in an aging yellow station wagon.

Some of you remember the saga of seven months ago, with a chronic and belligerent 5am horn honker, who finally mended her ways, but not without the intervention of my good friend Thuan and a helpful officer of the law.

We've had seven months now of relative quiet. Seven months of decent sleep. But lo, about two weeks ago, which some of you may recall as 'the single worst week of my adult professional life,' the honking horn was back.

Can you add injury to insult to injury? If so, that's the conceit of this story.

But, if I dare say it out loud, maybe it's not the moral.

This morning I heard the horn again, checked the clock, verified the inhuman hour, put a jacket over my tank top, and headed out in bare feet to confront the driver. What I expected was the horrible woman of the last series of episodes, speeding away, middle finger flailing from the window of her SUV, horn blazing in victory.

What I got instead was the contrition of a humble man. In a humble car. Who has to pick up a coworker at 5am to get them both to work on time. Who probably doesn't have a cell phone. Who speaks very little English. Whose apology -- despite the fact that I couldn't tell if he was saying 'Sorry I'll have to continue to wake you up every morning' or 'Sorry; it won't happen again' -- was categorically sincere.

Tomorrow, I suppose, is the litmus test. Or maybe next week, or the week after that. In my heart of hearts, I believe I'm going to hear that horn again. Quite possibly again and again. It's entirely plausible, in fact, that my neighbor could work the early shift for the rest of her days, so this will become a standard intrusion sure as taxes.

But is it possible, now that I know the driver means me no harm, that I can get past the sense of personal assault? That I can see this not as a targeted offense but as a neutral pattern in the lives of my neighbors?

Might it not even become a source of comfort, like the revving engines of the Greyhounds when I lived above that Missouri bus station in 1989, and felt secure in knowing people were out there, living their lives, at all hours of the day, so not even the darkest moment needed to seem isolating, hollow, or stark? It was just people of the world doing their worldly machinations, and maybe that's something worth making peace with.


Diana Sudyka said...

Well said, lady. It doesn't take all of the sting out of the early morning wake up call, but a sincere apology goes a long, long way.

tracy said...

But if the honker starts sporting a human skull on his or her hood, I'd say let it go!

Berdawn said...

Great post! I hope your neighbor and his ride get their schedules coordinated.

I live in a neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio that seems pretty similar to yours and have wrestled with this particular problem for the past few years. Good luck!

Christy said...

Welcome, Berdawn. I'm curious which neighborhood you live in in Columbus (I grew up there, in sleepy Bexley, where nothing bad ever seemed to happen). I wish you luck with your challenges as well, and hope your neighborhood routinely makes up for those hurdles, as mine does.

Berdawn said...

I live in Weinland Park--the southern end of the university district-from 5th Ave to 11th and from the RR tracks to High St. OSU has made some dramatic improvements and serious investments (especially in the area around High Street), it was spurred by the murder of four students. while our block is now all owner-occupied, WP has the highest concentration of subsidized housing in the city. The gentrification issue has left some raw feelings (although how an area with less that 15% owner occupied housing can be considered “gentrifying” is a stretch) but I think that there is potential here for people coming together.

I came across your blog from a link on Cakewrecks, BTW--you're
a real find!

Lynn Stevens said...

I don't know if you remember Fusion, the hair salon when it was on Kedzie across from the el. They had a sign in the window with the universal red circle with a diagonal line for "No," crossing out a graphic of someone honking a horn. I think it might also have said "a horn is not a doorbell."

Many years ago we had a 5 too, but about 2 years ago the last of the honkers on our block moved away. We're pretty close to an arterial tho, so still get some noise.