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Car Talk: An Interpretation of Honks


Years ago a car company -- I believe it was Ford -- announced plans to build some kind of lighted message strip above the rear bumper of some of its cars. The idea, as I recall, was for drivers to be able to punch in pre-set messages from the dashboard that would appear for drivers following the Ford to read. The most pertinent one was to signal drivers that you were about to make a U-turn. In today's L.A. Observed, writer David Rensin delineates a series of horn honks and how he intends them for various road contingencies. In doing so, he shows how unnecessary Ford's message strip idea was (well, maybe on a certain level) and how much we've come to communicate to others through our cars.

"There are many varieties of honking," writes Rensin. "[I]t almost qualifies as a language. A long bray, often repeated, shows frustration . . . Mostly I honk politely, in short single or double bursts. 'Hey, the left turn arrow is green.' . . . Sometimes the situation requires more, like when a driver wants to switch lanes and try to occupy the exact space-time coordinates that I do. Earth to driver. Wake up!"

Rensin's blog post is both a paean to road communication and a wake-up

honk to those of us who believe there is no danger is casually giving

the horn to complete strangers in a heavily armed city. More, Rensin

implicitly admits what we all subconsciously feel -- that other drivers

can decipher the meaning of our honks and that we have the

psychic ability to communicate road rage (or at least, impatience) with an assist from under our hoods.


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