The Kalu Yala Blog
February 8, 2013by Esteban Gast
Posted In: Wandering Thoughts
In Panama the locals speak more than Spanish. They also speak “honk.” As a gringo, I’m accustomed to a certain type of honk. I approach honking pulling from the lessons that I learned from The Boy Who Cried Wolf. In my eyes, honks were reserved for the most intense circumstances, for example if there were actually a wolf attacking my sheep. Living near Chicago, I of course know that honks are also reserved for traffic jams when all cars honk at the same time in frustration, because nothing calms any sort of negative feelings in traffic like 25 synchronized honks. Once I honked to let a friend know I was outside, but felt guilty and walked up to the door. I swore to myself that I would suppress the urge to honk and thought I would never honk again until that moment revealed itself in a dramatic therapy session.
It’s amazing to think of where I stood a mere one month ago, a tiny lunar cycle ago, a total of 4 weeks ago when inflation was low, politicians were honest and I was just so young. I thought I knew it all back then. I remembered my first honk when I was 5 and I sat in my parents car parked in the garage and I pushed the middle of the steering wheel shocked that a loud noise could come from such timid pressing. This is where I was on my path of life, not knowing that a honk could be anything more. It was a cold winter in Chicago and I packed my bags and headed down to Panama where they think the winter months are summers. But not only their accidental labeling of the seasons (they’re really sticking to it…everyone keeps saying it’s summer) is what would jar me into a state of culture shock. It was their honks.
Down here, honks mean everything. Don’t believe me? I will list out 15 things that a honk could mean, and then stop due to time, word count issues and the arthritis that would start developing in my fingers. Honks mean: excuse me, I’m running the red light, look at me, how are you doing, you’re good looking, do you need a taxi, come outside, I’m passing you, why are you going slow, why are you going fast,, the light is green, the light is red, I wish Nicholas cage were more intense and then completely mild mannered in his movies, I agree with that sign hanging up, and I accidently hit the horn because my hand constantly rests on it
My favorite honk is the “I know I’m doing something illegal but at least I’m honking.” It’s the do first, ask for permission later approach. It’s the strategy championed by Mitt Romney in his page-turning book entitled No Apologies. The majority of cars, specifically taxis drive with that no apologies mindset. I often wonder if they are reenacting scenes from the Nicholas Cage movie Gone in 60 seconds. For the record, yes, that is the second reference to Nicholas Cage.
You see, down here honking is a sport. If there were a Honking World Cup two things would happen. First, it would finally make the vuvuzuelas the second most annoying sound in soccer (Cristiano Ronaldo’s fake “I’m hurt” yells were a close second), and Panama would dominate. It’s truly an art, and they take the canvas of their horn and paint a beautiful picture of honking.
So my recommendation is this people of Panama (I assume some pretty high level government officials read my blog), you should institutionalize honking so you can present your talents on a global level. At the very least you should read No Apologies and watch Gone in 60 Seconds…that combination got me through high school.