Driving Through Tunnel Ritual


Whenever the informant drives through a tunnel, she holds her breath and honks her horn for the duration of the drive until exiting the tunnel.


The informant has known this ritual her entire life, growing up in Northern California, where there are many hills and mountains to drive through. Her family has always done it, and she has continued the tradition of this ritual to her friends all over California. The ritual feels like such second nature to the informant that she instinctively holds her breath and honks her horn in any tunnel. In different regions of California, some drivers alongside her do not honk their horns at all, and are alarmed at her doing it. However, where she is from, the tunnels are always filled with honking horns by default, and it is never questioned. 


Upon doing more research about this particular ritual, it is clear that this is just one variation of many similar rituals. To some in different regions of California, the honking of the car horn is never involved, and the ritual only involves holding one’s breath. To others, the ritual also includes saying the first fruit that you can think of as soon as you leave the tunnel. 

This variation in such a common ritual, whether it is regional or just specific to each person and unrelated to geographical location, shows how far folklore can spread when its practitioners all have a shared experience. In this example, the shared experience is driving in tunnels through hills or underground. Whatever the variation of the tunnel ritual is, its existence and popularity shows the discomfort that many drivers must have with driving through tunnels. After all, why else would such rituals be so popular? 

It is very common for rituals to arise out of fear and superstition, and the popularity of this tunnel ritual is a perfect example of our tendency to create rituals that make us feel like we have more control in situations where we feel uncomfortable or unsafe.