Tuesday, April 5, 2011


To get to and from work, I travel a total of 36.4 miles, and in Atlanta that amounts to almost two hours in my car each workday. That car is a 2002 Saturn sedan, and though we've traveled over 94,000 miles together, I'm not that attached to the Silver Bullet. For starters, nothing about him is automatic. I have to use a key to open his doors and passengers have to be reminded to lock the door behind them. My elbow actually moves when I roll down a window, and I have to stretch across the front seat to roll-down the passenger window. Rolling down the back windows requires pre-planning. The radio is factory-made, and I have to manually remove the antenna each time I take him in to get washed. The one feature the Silver Bullet has that many on the road lack, however, is a horn that speaks volumes.

The American car horn is a notable exception to poorly made American products. The horns of foreign-made cars can barely reach a fevered "beep!" while their American counterparts elicit a blasting "honk!" They are loud, annoying and difficult to ignore. It's important to me that the object of my honks understands my point fully, and beeping just doesn't do that.

I'm not a car-person - for me, they serve only a practical purpose - so I can't speak with authority on car horns; however, I know that my Saturn has a horn that packs as much punch if not more than the SUV's bearing down on me. And I'm not afraid to use it either. Having appointed myself the arbiter of good and bad driving, it is my duty to pass judgment on others' driving skills, or, more appropriately, their lack thereof. I'm particularly fond of honking at someone who isn't paying attention when the light turns green or who fails to signal before turning. People who talk on their cell phones or text while driving are also favorite victims. I'm looking forward to the day when I pull aside someone texting while driving and just letting the Silver Bullet's horn blare away.

Not everyone shares my affinity for the car horn. In Montreal, it's considered rude to honk at someone, and once I could barely contain myself when my mom let a car pull out in front of us, then stop, go in reverse, and then do a u-turn right in the middle of the street without so much as a honk. Her response? "We don't honk in Colorado." Arrrgh. Chicago and New York are more my style. In Chicago, the person five cars behind the light will start honking in anticipation of the green light, and New York just isn't New York without a 24-hour chorus of car horns. Music to my ears.

The Silver Bullet is aging, and the day will come when I will have to replace him. My next car will have power-everything, including a power-horn, and I plan to submit each car horn to a test. Any model that "beeps" is out of the question.

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