Honking in the Drive-Thru: A Case Study

This study is an attempt to explain a phenomenon that appears to be sweeping the country through the eyes of two seemingly normal men innocently waiting for Chinese food in a Hyundai. Names, ages, physical descriptions, models of cars, and restaurant names have not been changed because, well, no one cares. This is our story.

Case 1

Location: Cheng’s Chinese Restaurant

Incident: Repeated honking by man driving a Nissan

At approximately 6:30 pm on June 1, 2012, a fellow TTAF administrator who we’ll call “Curtis Rogers” and myself were waiting for our order at the window of our favorite Chinese restaurant. Curtis was driving and I was in the passenger seat, mostly likely checking Twitter on my phone. The smell of egg rolls surrounded us.  At approximately 6:32 an un-named Chinese man slid the window open and told us that our order would be ready in a few minutes. This was standard protocol at Cheng’s, they’re very thorough with orders and (usually) extremely accurate in their time estimates. As we waited, I moved on to checking Facebook on my phone and Curtis was fumbling through the tiniest ipod ever made in hopes of finding a certain Bruce Hornsby song that I’d never heard.

After what seemed like 4-6 minutes of waiting, we heard something. We weren’t sure, but it sounded exactly like the horn of a car and seemed to come from directly behind us. Shocked, we looked in various mirrors and noticed an extremely impatient man driving a black Nissan SUV behind us who was in fact, honking at us. We looked at each other, discussed the matter for a few seconds, and then returned to our electronic devices. A few minutes later, we heard the same noise, followed by a series of rapid-fire beeps with added emphasis. Perplexed and slightly rattled, we looked at each other again, this time discussing the man’s character and using words that have probably never been used in a Chinese drive-thru. Finally, at approximately 6:40, the un-named Chinese man appeared once again with our order and apologized for the delay. Curt replied “no worries”, and pulled away from the window at an obnoxiously slow speed out of spite.

The problem: What compels a man in a Nissan to honk at the car in front of him while waiting for Chinese food?

The solution: The way I see it, there are 4 possible solutions.

  1. He was honking at the un-named Chinese man – It’s entirely possible that this man meant no aggression towards Curtis Rogers or myself. After all, there’s really nothing we can do. We’re  not the ones preparing the General Tso’s combination plates with fried rice and Wonton soup. We’re just sitting in the car, mindlessly sifting through hand-held technology. If we assume he is a reasonable man, perhaps he grasped the idea of our helplessness and was directing his obnoxious honking at the kitchen in hopes that they’d turn the oven up a notch so everyone could get home in time for ‘Grey’s Anatomy’.
  2. He had a bad day and hated us – I’m a fan of giving people the benefit of the doubt in most situations. I want to believe that this man had the worst day of his life and the only thing that could make it better was a giant plate of garlic noodles. And we were in his way. It certainly doesn’t excuse the behavior, but could shed some light on the motivation.
  3. He was having a heart attack – Although unlikely, it’s plausible that some sort of medical emergency caused his arms to flail and repeatedly come in contact with the horn of his Nissan. Chinese food has been known to clog an artery or two. If so, I feel bad for those things I said about him, and also for not helping with the heart attack.
  4. He has a lot of pent-up emotion and needs to forgive his father – I’m no psychiatrist, but as a general rule, if you’re honking at other cars in the drive-thru, it’s probably time to let that hurt heal.

Conclusion: People who drive Nissans are angrier than people who drive Hyundais.

I have to say, I don’t see any holes in this theory at all. None. But perhaps you do. My question is this – what should we have done? Have you ever been honked at in the drive-thru? If so, how is one supposed to handle such a situation?

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2 Comments on “Honking in the Drive-Thru: A Case Study”

  1. bradyn
    December 15, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    he was obviously honking at the restaurant telling them to hurry up.

  2. Bill
    January 30, 2016 at 2:00 am #

    This actually just happened to me…. I was 3rd or 4th in line, and the car that pulled up behind me waited all of 30 seconds then honked. I was perplexed and angered…. but then, I live in a college town and the car was full of what appeared to be drunk frat boys and it was a Friday night. Basically, it’s just people honking impatiently at the restaurant and was nothing directed personally.

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