Promoting a honk-free environment

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BY GREGORY AST

Honking has become a significant part of my life these days.

You know that kind of honking from agitated motorists who are on missions of national security? They’re so tight for time that they can’t allow an extra nine seconds to be removed from their Expected Time of Arrival.

I blame Salt Spring Island. You see, I took the motto too seriously. “Don’t try to change Salt Spring – let Salt Spring change you” is how I first heard it. I remember laughing about it the first time, years ago. I talked to local friends about it and was surprised at how many didn’t return my giggles. They took that phrase seriously.

“Greg, we take that motto seriously,” they said. “It’s an important contribution to your future health.”

So, I decided to let it happen. And it did. I changed. I slowed down. I noticed that others already had. Slowed down, that is. The whole island takes the extra nine seconds to let you cross the street or go ahead in the grocery line if you appear to need the time.

Now to be fair, the grocery line often takes more than nine seconds. By my watch, the delay is 42 seconds, but in those 42 seconds, the person I let ahead and the cashier both talked to me about something enjoyable that improved my life, so I actually only wasted nine seconds there too.

But I’m going to Victoria quite a bit these days. People there are obviously in the midst of terrifyingly serious matters and they do not have the time to waste those aforementioned nine seconds.

However, they do have the time to blow their car’s horn at people like me who meander. The first blast nearly popped me out of my shoes. I turned to find out what had happened inside the car that caused the driver to blow their horn so dramatically. I thought perhaps a terrorist had commandeered their vehicle at knife-point and they were trying to attract my attention to their plight. Perhaps they thought I could rush into their dilemma and save them.

But no, upon closer inspection, there was no terrorist. There was a middle-aged guy at the wheel with a Pekinese riding shotgun and both were flipping me the bird. I was apparently walking too slowly across the street in their path to wherever they were headed. Doggy daycare, perhaps.

Then it happened again, and again. Mostly in shopping malls. I often walk from my parked car towards my destination (usually, a store — duh) and apparently take up too much of the pavement pre-ordained for the exclusive use of the automobile. Drivers honk at me, regularly. Soon, I was ignoring the honks. No need to believe that any of the horn blasts actually wanted my attention. Rather they just wanted me to know that I was being considered a klutz by some extremely important people (them) in the provincial capital. Fortunately, I have known that I’m a klutz for quite some time and their input was quite unnecessary.

But now it’s happened on Salt Spring. To be fair, it only happened once, and it was on market day and I was J-walking. But I was so surprised that I had to look into the car. Oh, my goodness! It was the guy with the Pekinese dog again!

I found my shoes and returned them to my feet and then walked up to his window, which was rolled down. The Pekinese scowled at me. The man told me that I was J-walking. I could tell that his blood pressure was frightfully high by the colour of his complexion. I pointed out that it was market day and J-walking was permitted. He told me to pay closer attention to the rules of the road. I told him to stop trying to change Salt Spring. He told me to do an unnatural act and laid a strip of tire rubber in front of Ganges Alley as he headed up Ganges Hill, presumably to catch the first Fulford ferry back to civilization. I swear the Pekinese flipped me yet another bird.

So, you see why I’m getting just a tad nervous. The time I’m now spending in Victoria could change me. I might need to pay closer attention to their big-city traffic patterns. Either that or just wear earphones with the white noise app.

So, I’m thinking of sporting a T-shirt in Victoria. I can buy it at Apple Photo. They’ll imprint it for me, did you know? “DON’T TRY TO CHANGE ISLANDERS. LET ISLANDERS CHANGE YOU.” Salt Spring Island Chamber of Commerce

I could start a whole new following. The collective blood pressure of the Saanich Peninsula could drop significantly. I could open a kiosk at the Swartz Bay ferry terminal. Right there beside the Salt Spring Gelato franchise store.

The healthcare system could return to the black.

Great ideas come from simple observations.

The writer is a Salt Spring resident.

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