I was perched on a stool at a comfortable watering hole recently, enjoying a refreshing libation and a pleasant conversation with a friend, when our conference was interrupted by a din from the parking lot.
It continued for what seemed an eternity until finally, a sheepish looking patron produced a key and put a stop to it.
Car horns have been around as long as there have been automobiles.
In fact, in various forms, vehicle warning systems have been around longer than cars. Horns activated by squeezing a rubber bulb, and bells, were used on some horse-drawn carriages.
The original purpose of car horns was to warn other motorists, or any pedestrian or animal that might stray into traffic.
Although originally intended as safety devices, car horns are apparently only deployed for that purpose about 5 percent of the time.
The rest of the time they are used to annoy other people.
Over the years, car horns have evolved to maximize their potential for irritation.
Not only have car horns become louder, the tone they emit has also become more unpleasant.
Many early car horns had a reasonably pleasant, genteel sort of tone, reflective of the good manners at the time.
Later, the popular klaxon horn with its distinctive “ah-oo-gah!” sound, while not exactly polite, was at least funny.
Modern horns are just irritating.
Perhaps least offensive of the non-warning uses of car horns is as a greeting.
Some people honk goodbye anytime they drive away from a group of friends, or pass an acquaintance on the street.
In the former example, honking is probably not necessary, since the honker just said goodbye to the honkee 30 seconds ago.
Another maddening use of car horns is to announce arrival.
This technique is employed by people who are too lazy to get out of their vehicles and walk up to the door when they pick someone up.
Instead, they remain in their vehicles on the street or in the driveway, and honk their horns to announce their presence.
It is a perversity of nature that the people who are most prone to honk for their passengers tend to associate with people who dawdle and who are never punctual. This results in the morons in the cars sitting and honking multiple times, annoying everyone in the neighborhood except for the intended recipient of the honking.
Another widespread and vexing use of the car horn is to express dissatisfaction or impatience.
Some blockheads begin honking immediately if the driver in front of them doesn’t put the accelerator to the floor the second the traffic signal changes.
Others will repeatedly lean on the horn in a pathetic display of petulance whenever they encounter traffic congestion.
I am not aware of any scientific evidence to suggest that honking a car horn has ever made any traffic jam anywhere move the slightest bit faster, but some people go for the horn the second traffic begins slow down.
The final unpleasant use of car horns is also the most modern.
The evil geniuses who design auto alarms figured out if they design systems that will activate car horns when the alarm is activated, they can annoy many people at once.
I’m not sure what the percentage is of times that car alarms indicate actual attempts to steal the vehicle or its contents, but it must be extremely low.
The rest of the time, the alarms are activated by operator error or by accident.
Here again, the usual suspects are either half deaf, oblivious, or the type of people who lose their keys in the bottom of a vast purse. In any event, everyone in the area is treated to a cacophony of blasts of a car horn until the owner of the vehicle notices or fishes the keys out of the depths of a handbag.
Car horns are just another example of a device that was engineered for a practical and valuable purpose, but which, in the hands of imbeciles, becomes something else entirely.