The hardest thing for me to adjust to while living in Reading this summer has been learning all the differences between driving in Ohio and driving in Pennsylvania. Simply put, I’m not sure that one person in the entire state of Pennsylvania knows how to drive.
This manifests itself in many ways. In Ohio, when someone is in a left turn lane, that person is often able to — wait for it — turn left without a driver near them throwing up their arms in frustration. I mention this specific scenario because it happens to me literally every single day on my way home from work.
Also in Ohio, we have these things called speed limits. They’re numbers that are posted on the side of the road to indicate the maximum speed a driver on said road should drive, and while it’s generally understood that it’s alright to go a little above this number, if you go too fast, you will get pulled over and receive what we like to call a “ticket.” In Pennsylvania, everyone seems to go at least 15 miles over the speed limit on every highway, and I don’t think I’ve seen a single person get pulled over the entire time I’ve been here.
There’s also this thing that people here do, mostly in downtown Reading, where they’ll just stop their cars in the middle of the road. Apparently, if you can’t find a convenient parking spot, it’s totally acceptable to just stop driving, throw on your hazard lights, get out of your vehicle and go about your day. I brought this up to an employee of a car shop I went to last week when I had a slow leak in one of my tires (while another tire had a shard of glass sticking out of it, I learned). His response was “Well, we are like an hour away from Philly” as if that had anything to do with anything.
But I think my favorite thing about Pennsylvania drivers is the way they use their horns. For a group of people who tend to drive relatively aggressively, you’d think they would use their horns as freely as their gas pedals. But no.
There is this phenomenon that occurs when there’s some sort of traffic jam — you know, those things that the majority of people stuck in them can’t do much about besides wait for them to clear up. In Ohio (and literally every other place I’ve ever driven), I’ve found these to be very annoying, but here, they’re my favorite part of driving.
Let me preface this by saying that I have no idea if this is a statewide thing or if I’ve just been lucky enough to be around every time it happens. Anyway, this incredible thing occurs whenever there is a traffic jam, after everyone has been sitting there for a few minutes. By that point, it’s become clear that there’s a problem larger than construction closing a lane or someone waiting to make a left turn. Several minutes into a traffic jam, everyone kind of just accepts that there’s not much they or anyone around them can do, and they’re just going to have to wait it out.
But here, in that same situation, that’s the moment when one person decides to honk.
It’s always exactly one quick, short honk, and it’s always from exactly one person in one car. It accomplishes nothing, and it makes me laugh every single time because it’s just so unnecessary. It’s the sound effect equivalent of sticking your head out the sunroof and screaming “I AM DRIVING AND I AM ANGRY!” at the sky.
So thank you, Pennsylvania drivers, for counterbalancing all your strange and illogical driving habits with one wonderfully ridiculous thing. Also, please stop throwing glass in the road; it gets stuck in my sensitive Midwestern tires.