Friday, August 15, 2014
Wisconsin 101: Not always so nice here
SH and I were returning from downtown and stopped at a traffic light kitty corner from the police station. As usual, SH was being a bit cranky because the light was taking too long and oh man why does it always take soooo long?
SH sometimes thinks that the laws of the universe should not apply to people who are in a hurry.
I just turned the radio up and watched the oncoming traffic. A car to our left turned right in front of an oncoming SUV. It is not a turn I would have made - there was not enough room - and the SUV driver had to slam on her brakes.
Naturally - wait, not naturally - this is Wisconsin and people here are pretty nice or pretty passive aggressive - pick your poison - and it is rare to hear a horn honk. Really. You almost never hear any one honk a horn. If someone is not moving and not moving when the light turns green and it goes on more than a few seconds, you will not hear blaring horns from all the cars behind but one polite quick tap of the horn that says, "Excuse me but perhaps you didn't notice the light has turned green. If it's not too much trouble, would you mind lifting your foot off the brake and touching the gas?"
It is a very demure honk.
I don't honk unless someone is not moving or unless the rare occasion occurs in which I encounter a complete idiot. That seems to be the practice here.
The SUV driver honked.
Rightfully so. It was a "Did you really do something soooo stupid and dangerous that I was compelled to give a real honk? Honey this is not New York City. We do not drive crazy here. We do not drive rude. We have time to get to where we are going. Your behavior is unacceptable."
It was a righteous honk of the horn.
The driver of the car slammed on her brakes. Stopped the car with the back end of her car in the intersection, forcing the SUV to stop IN THE INTERSECTION.
The car driver flung open her door. Got out of her car. Marched back to the SUV, shaking her fist and (apparently - the radio was still turned up) screaming.
"Did you see that?" I gasped to SH.
"See what?" he asked.
SH remains focused on the task at hand almost all the time. We were walking through the airport in Milwaukee once and two monks in saffron robes approached us. "Did you see that?" I asked after they had passed us. It wasn't like I could say, "Hey! SH! LOOK AT THE GUYS IN THE SAFFRON ROBES!" That would have been rude.
"See what?" he asked.
"The two men in saffron robes who JUST WALKED PAST YOU!"
He shook his head. He had not seen them. I do not get it.
"Look at the woman over there!" I said as I pointed.
The drama continued.
The car driver continued to scream and then stomped back to her car, leaned inside, marched back to the SUV, and THREW A BOTTLE AT THE SUV.
My jaw dropped.
I expect this kind of drama in the movies or in New York, which has people from cultures that express their emotions, not Milwaukee, which is filled with Germans and Scandinavians. We don't do any dancing that involves moving our hips and we certainly don't scream and throw bottles at people who have offended us.
Oh sure we march east and invade small, defenseless countries. Iowa, do not get on our bad side. But we do not throw bottles.
I gasped again. I keep thinking that I have seen all there is to see in daily life but I am continually proven wrong.
Our light turned green. SH took his foot off the brake and put it on the gas.
"Wait!" I said. "I want to see how this turns out!"
"Are you crazy?" he asked. "I want to get out of here."
Which made me remember that he is not concerned with plot at all. And which makes me think this post should have been about how engineers look at everyday occurrences and deviations from everyday occurrences and how English majors look at such things, but that means I would have to rewrite this and I am too lazy to do so.
So. Take what you will from this, as we do not know how it ended. People here are not nice all the time.