Monday, May 06, 2019


I would love to be able to travel back in time to have a chat with the inventor of the car horn. Wikipedia would like me to speak with Miller Reese Hutchison, an electrical engineer who found himself in the employ of Thomas Edison and borrowed the notion of a squeeze bulb horn from bicycles and smaller vehicles and adapted their use to motor cars. Electricity made it possible to generate a much louder and piercing noise with the hopes that it could be heard over the ever-increasing sound of traffic. This lead the the eventual need for louder motors to be heard over the sound of horns blaring.
I am not a fan. This might be because I don't drive as much as others, and I tend to look at the time I spend behind the wheel to be more contemplative and protected compared to my bicycle commutes. I can vary the temperature. I can listen to music or check traffic. If it begins to rain, I can roll up the windows and turn on the windshield wipers. If someone jumps out in front of me, I have brakes.
I don't use the horn. For me, the warning that might be associated with that sound has long since been replaced by the anger. It doesn't mean, "Look out" as much anymore. Now it means, "What's your problem?" Then there is the very favorite add-on which involves rolling down the window and screaming some vile epithet or obscene finger gesture.
Which brings me to my overall philosophy about traffic. We are in it together. I understand the challenge of being stuck in a line of cars, waiting for that one person in front to decide that he or she must have left their ticket to the parking garage on the table at the California Pizza Kitchen, but I have also been that person. Not the California Pizza Kitchen part so much as the misplaced parking validation. With all the other thoughts and concerns going on in our collective heads, from the climate control to the radio station to the kids in the back seat to the navigation helpfully routing you through an open pasture, it's a wonder we get anywhere safely. Those three thousand pound chunks of metal and plastic that go flying past and around us that manage to stay in their own lane and avoid impact should be the outliers, the exceptions. Instead, we all do a pretty amazing job of controlling our conveyances from one point to the next.
All of which is to say that the gentleman who beeped at me when I was turning left, with a proper hand signal, on my bicycle might want to reconsider his choices.

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