What is Making San Francisco Drivers into Jerks?

Have you noticed people are honking and driving more aggressively in San Francisco the last year or so?

We did not used to be jerks on the roads. When I moved here 22 years ago one of the noticeable differences from Washington DC was the way people drive. People here dovetailed at the merge. We waved to say thanks when people let you in. And we did NOT honk, at least not because you are pissed off. I even noticed that I used the bird way less often.

I have often wondered why. Learning to drive in the Washington-NYC-Boston corridor, it was a dog-eat-dog world. Other drivers wouldn’t let you merge and I saw and flew the bird a lot more often. I took it for a metaphor for a more cooperative spirit of the west.

Yesterday, I was letting a pedestrian cross in San Francsico and the guy behind me in a bright new, red pickup honked at me. After months of hearing this kind of behavior, I honked my horned, yelled at him, flipped the bird, and then did it all over again, this time ranting “M*****F***er!!!”

Now I was part of the problem. Sure, he was in the wrong. You don’t honk at someone who has stopped to let a pedestrian cross. But still. Perhaps he hadn’t see the pedestrian? I didn’t think about that. I was clear in my outrage. I know how I feel on the receiving end of my behavior. Let’s say it does not result in cooperation.

What is happening to us? I recent editorial called us all out for feeling good in our outrage. We revel in our stew of strong convictions that Trump is a crook, or not; that climate change requires action now, or not; and the the other side “just doesn’t get it.”

Perhaps that is it.

My wife speculated that rideshare drivers are especially pissed off at the societal injustice of their situation. That our street level outrage and honking is embodiment of the battle of haves and have nots. The street and a horn. Now that is level playing field.

Whatever the cause, I really hope the streets of San Francisco is not turning into the angry streets of the east coast.