Lingua Franca


(The only honkers I understand)

When one moves to another country, it takes awhile to learn the ins and outs, the myths and truths, and the language and lore of the land. While I’m no genius at foreign languages, I can order food, say hello, and indulge in generic pleasantries in no less than ten, (probably more) languages. But in Curacao, my new residence, there exists a special language, an unbreakable coded vernacular that leaves me mystified, and my reactions to it are becoming dulled, as dulled at the roof paint on my old K-car. It’s a honking culture here, one where the ceaseless tooting of one’s horn is a right, a puzzling nuance, an exasperating jolt to a quiet stroll. I’ve been jotting down notes, hither and yon, considering to myself, what could so much honking be about? My few tentative conclusions:

Hi sexy lady!
I see you!
You have the same car as me!
Let’s meet for a drink later!
Damn you, traffic jam!
Damn you, world!
Don’t walk across the road while I am driving!
I don’t like the way you drive!
I like the way you drive!
I am honking out of habit and for no reason whatsoever!
Oops, I just dropped my cel phone in my lap!
You are walking too slow for my aggressive driving!
You are driving too slow for my aggressive driving!
Watch out giant iguana!
Get off the road pedestrian!

Add to this honking culture some badly maintained and oily roads, bald tires, untrained auto mechanics, hot weather, broken car air conditioners, one lane roads, minimum police presence, light fingered car inspections, and what looks like an overabundance of male drivers between the ages of 18-24 and you get Caribbean chaos. As well, stop signs are ignored, street signs and streetlights are hard to locate, un-helmeted motorcyclists cruise the sidewalks when there’s no room on the road, and wall-eyed tourists abound. I confess, it’s almost like driving in Boston.

I caught my husband honking the horn the other day for no reason I could discern. I glowered. He giggled. And we squealed with delight around the very next corner.