Come Blow Your Horn- But Not At a Cop

by Larry Teren

It’s one thing to enter an expressway on an entrance ramp from a regular road at a reduced speed limit. It’s another to get onto a highway by getting off another one, especially trying to stay with the flow of traffic. Do you hear that, copper?


Does it make me an old fogy that I don’t look forward to taking the expressway when I have to drive a long distance? It’s not the speed of the highway that intimidates me as much trying to get on and off it at those stupid cloverleafs. Legend has it that the engineer who designed the famous dangerous “S” curve on Chicago’s Outer Drive committed suicide as he was despaired by all the deaths and major lifelong injuries he caused. About ten years or so ago, someone with an ounce of brains at a Federal Agency decided to donate some money to the City of Chicago to fix the problem and straighten the swish in the road as much as possible.

However, that doesn’t solve the danger of all those cloverleafs on expressways throughout this country. I suppose those idiotic engineers came up with the concept at a time when traffic was a third as much as now and people didn’t tend to drive as fast. Yes, the speed limit was above 55mph in those days but it didn’t seem to be a problem trying to get on and off highways. Maybe the reason back then was because the majority of cars were standard transmissions. A driver would need to manually shift gears which acted as a distraction to keeping the foot down on the accelerator and any thoughts of zooming in and out of traffic.


The other day I was off to go visit a client in the western suburbs of Chicago. There was no direct route from the far north side of the city. Of the two or three choices to go there, all of the would start off by taking the Kennedy Expressway pretending I was going to O’hare Airport, but stopping short by either getting on the 294 tollway headed south or taking Mannheim Road, the old cross-city truck route.


Being the cheapskate that I am, I decided to take Mannheim. Anyone who is on the Kennedy extension to O’Hare is well aware of how tricky it is to maneuver the car over to the right to get off either on the Mannheim northbound or southbound exit ramps. The connection point is dangerously close to the connecting 294 Interstate Tollway southbound exit ramp into the only road leading to O’Hare. For several feet, there is a union of cars coming from 294 sharing the same space as the cars wanting to exit at Mannheim.


In fact, more than thirty years ago, I had an accident while trying to get off the southbound exit even though I wanted to northbound. It was raining heavily and cars in the joined lane were not budging an inch to let others in. Unfortunately, as I got to the mouth of the exit ramp, there was a car stalled. There was no wriggle room so I was obliged to break but still bump into its rear. No damage was done to Dad’s car (which I had borrowed to go to a banquet at a hotel) but the other had the usual dented trunk.


So, your Honor, there was emotional trauma taking place in my mind as I approach Mannheim South. Unfortunately, I noticed that the long truck and two other cars that exited 294 were staying in the shared lane intent on also getting off onto Mannheim. I slowed down to fall in behind them as all four of us looped around in an almost complete circle to merge on Mannheim. As it became my turn, I found very quickly that a car speeding along on Mannheim was at the same time trying to get onto the entrance ramp so that he could head west on the Kennedy towards the airport. It just so happened that the vehicle in question was a police officer driven SUV toting some type of device behind it.


The police car did not give me any room to maneuver but was intent on pushing its way into the entrance lane. The attitude of the police officer seemed to be that he expected me to come to a full stop and wait for him to do his thing. That, or to pull off onto the shoulder. So, your Honor, I did what came natural. I honked the son of a you-know-what. I realized what I was doing but I also gave him a shrug that asked, “where the heck am I supposed to go, copper?” He obviously didn’t understand sign language. I started to proceed on Mannheim. After a moment, in what had seemed to be a hurry to him now became all the time in the world. He put his blue and red flashers on and I understood to pull over.


As he approached my car and I rolled down the window, he yelled, “you didn’t yield and you honked your horn.” I responded “you cut me off and didn’t give me anywhere to go. I honked you to make you aware that you were forcing me off the road.”  Talk about road rage and aggressive driving! It’s a good thing he was the only one carrying a gun.  Okay, so I tooted the car’s horn.  Hey, the car is ten years old. C’mon- like I’m going to win a battle of car sounds with a semi truck trailer?


He asked for my drivers license and insurance card and went back to his car. I immediately remembered to pull out my bond card so I wouldn’t have to give up my drivers license. I had learned that a few years ago when I did a dumb thing and went around five cars a half block from a police station with a squad car two cars behind mine. At that time, I had forgotten to give the bond card and had to go to the station an hour or so later and catch them before they had sent the ticket and stapled drivers license downtown for processing.


While waiting in the car, I decided that I would fight the ticket in court in person and demand an apology from the police officer. He didn’t like getting honked. Well, if the guy upstairs didn’t want cars to have horns, he wouldn’t have let Henry Ford figure that feature out.


As it was, the police officer returned two minutes later with my drivers license and insurance card and told me to slow down but didn’t issue a ticket. I figured the possibility of one of three things happened:


  1. The police officer didn’t have authority to ticket me where the incident took place.
  2. He didn’t have a ticket book.
  3. His partner in the van with him told him to cool it, that maybe I was right.


That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


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