Dear MOby,

Fortune smiled upon me last year. I got a great new job that relocated me from Detroit (where I grew up) to Venice, California, and I have both celebrated, and adjusted to the congestion, by buying myself a spiffy red Vespa GTS300, which I love dearly for scooting around town. The other thing I love is the healthy beach lifestyle, and maybe most of all the women sworn to uphold it as they exercise all over town in their workout gear and yoga pants. A lot of them seem to like my scooter as much as I do. I get lots of smiles and thumbs ups, and to return the friendly gesture I’ll sometimes give a quick beep-beep of my horn in return. Sometimes I’m so overcome with the joy of the moment and the cut of some woman jogger’s jib, I’d like to give her an unsolicited toot. Would this be wrong?

Ciao Bella
Venice, California

Dear Ciao?

Are you insane? A cheerful wave and a quick beep-beep is perfectly acceptable and commendable if the woman initiates the contact, but an unsolicited toot could be interpreted in all kinds of negative ways you don’t intend, especially in a left-wing enclave like Venice! It’s a fine line on any scooter, between cute and homicidal maniac, and an unbidden honk might very well have you crossing it. Unless she smiles and/or waves at you first, you might as well roll alongside in a ’72 Econoline van with peeling unicorn murals, shag-carpet interior and a “Free Charles Manson” bumper sticker.

Notice we say “could be interpreted”. Of course there are plenty of broad-minded women who’ll take your Vespa honk in exactly the friendly, non-threatening way it’s intended. But no man has ever had the stomach for the research needed to gauge exactly what percentage of women will be offended, threatened, and will aggressively defend their territory. Certainly it’s a high enough percentage that the best course of action is to simply steer clear of the horn button.

For a quick tutorial in just how quickly a friendly gesture of greeting can be misinterpreted, watch and study carefully the scene below from Curb Your Enthusiasm. Go forth my son, and honk no more unless bidden.

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