Trombone, Trumpet, …Horns. Marvelous devices, designed to provide various harmonic sounds, pleasing to the senses.
The car horn. An infuriating device, designed to produce a single horrific note to disturb the senses.
The car horn replaced the bell as the warning device on automobiles, early in the 1900’s, I think. Imagine if that had not occurred. A busy metropolitan intersection would be one monstrous wind chime. Much more pleasant to the senses than the senseless cacophony now prevalent on the road.
I suppose there was some sensibility to the car horn initially. At top speed, in the early 1900’s, a horn would be sufficiently audible at a distance adequate enough to warn someone of potential impact. At today’s speeds—even city street speeds, the screech, then thud of impact is likely to be audible prior to the bleepin’ beep.
Besides, if an accident looms ominously in your view, I would think the preponderance of effort should be in avoidance of vehicular impact, and not trying to impact the horn activating button—hidden deep within the safety padding of the steering wheel …right there, no, not in the center …there, see the icon …the embossed symbol, …next to the symbol for the air bag …which is now deploying. So, for the purpose of avoiding collisions, it seems futile to try to locate the “”horn”.
Honking also fails miserably to announce personal recognition of another driver or pedestrian. Unfortunately, the odds are less than roulette that I accurately recognize other drivers. Even if I correctly identify the driver next to me, the horn is hardly directive in its sound dispersal. Most of the drivers within goose-call range do not recognize the blaring attention-getter as a friendly greeting. Though one driver may wave an acknowledgment of my intended “friendly greeting”, most other drivers—especially the driver in front of me, respond with a not-so-friendly wave.
Depressing the horn button is arguably even less effective as a means to clear the way. Early automobile horns were blown by squeezing a rubber bulb. I suspect that was necessary because early automobile engines did not possess enough power to drive the wheels AND generate electricity at the same time. Such a low-on-power engine could not propel the car fast enough to be much of a threat of injury to pedestrians. In yesteryear, the horn had credible purpose to alert pedestrians they were wandering in the roadway. Today, honking at a casually ambling pedestrian, in your path, often elicits an even slower pace accompanied by a Mr. T glare.
And animals? Well, at least large ones like buffalo and moose, are ambivalent. Most other creatures are naturally afraid of moving vehicles and generally scamper to the side without you honking. However, I have found that some squirrels will return across the road if you honk. But only once.
Let’s see…speed negates the horn as a warning device. A honk is rarely interpreted as a friendly gesture. The claxon’s effectiveness as a traffic or animal clearing device is highly questionable. What’s left? Ahhh, yes, it is to signal displeasure with an ill advised decision by another driver.
Why honk at ’em? I’d suggest you should not let them get away with that bone head maneuver. Don’t toot your horn at ‘em…Hit ’em. Maybe they’ll learn.
But the epitome of stupidity with regard to usage of the car horn happened as I was coming home the other day. I had stopped at a traffic light. I was the first car in the thru lane. The green arrow for the turn lane to my left came on, signaling GO for turning vehicles. A horn honked.
My first thought was the honk came from behind me and I retorted with something like “Dummy, our light isn’t green yet.”
At the second, much longer honk, I realized it was not the car behind me honking. It was the guy behind an abandoned vehicle in the turn lane. For crying out loud…there was no driver in the disabled vehicle. Who was the guy honking at anyway. Oh, there was the target of the honk. He was standing in front of his apparently immobilized car…talking on a cell phone. Obviously I was not sure what the stranded motorist was thinking, yet I’m quite certain he was not signaling that he would be out of the way in “1” minute.