austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

I left home five hours ago

Car horns are simple. We should fix that. I'm not saying everything needs to be complicated, but that's usually better. Simple things we figure we can fix, and when it turns out we're worse at fixing things than we are at everything else, including contract bridge, which we don't know how to play, and we feel depressed and helpless. With complicated things, we figure what it would take to fix them, realize neither we nor the supergalactic cluster will last long enough to fix them, and we make do joking about our helplessness. We aren't upset about our failures, and that's just like being happy except for the weeping in bed.

Right now car horns are simple. You press the horn, and the car honks, unless the horn is broken, or the car is turned off. Unless you can honk with the car turned off. That's a nice start to making it complicated but we're almost none of the way there yet. We're still stuck with cars sometimes honking, and a honk seems unambiguous unless you're trying to interact with geese on their terms. (Don't.)

Usually when I honk it's a mistake, like I didn't notice where my hands were, or my car has allergies. This implies usually when I'm honked at, it's by accident and doesn't mean I'm doing something wrong. But I have to think over all the things I'm doing that might break traffic rules possibly existing only in the honker's imagination, and remember I'm in the passenger's seat, which is a lousy place to drive from. The result is general nervousness because nobody can say that last honk was a mistake, sorry, never mind, we've got the car on antihistamines but there are way too many histamines around.

We need a way to signal that. I'd suggest the Morse Code for ``stet'', short for ``never mind'', except that takes about fourteen minutes to tap out because you have to dig out your Owner's Manual, find the Morse Code section on some page like 18-04, and since the pages aren't numbered like every other book ever you have to guess where chapter 18 is. By the time you're done the person you honked at has got in to work and sublimated your honk-sourced confusion into vague hostility expressed in coffee-cup-crumpling. But three short taps, that's easy, and people can guess it's the first letter of ``stet'', when actually it's the first letter of ``sorry''. Other languages will need different rationalizations. More if they drive on the wrong side of the road or read right-to-left.

Then we can add other signals. I want a way to honk backwards so tailgaters give me some space, or stop trying to lift my wallet. Sending ``B'' would be good, if we could determine Morse for ``B'', which we can't. So we need to signal the driver doesn't know any Morse past vaguely thinking any set of four sounds is probably ``L''. If you get this short-short-long-short wrong it's still right then.

Next we can signal valuable information about the driver. Short-short-long would be great for ``Why are there two sun-fried packets of Sweet 'N Low on my dashboard when nobody I know touches the stuff? Are people breaking into my car and warning it's inadequately sweet when the dashboard is licked? How many people could there be trying to lick my dashboard? Could I charge admission? Who could?'' We need shorthand since rolling down the window and shouting at passing vehicles results in the other car accelerating, into a concrete abutment if necessary.

And there's specialty markets. Long-short-long-short signal could mean the driver realized, ``My new two-album conceptual rock opera is not creatively satisfying despite some pretty clever internal rhymes on the fourth track''. If people aren't writing conceptual rock operas anymore we won't be able to sell it, except to people living in nostalgic hazes. Solving all of these problems would be too complicated, so I'm in good shape, and how are you?

Yes, I know the traffic light changed. Be patient. If you give them time they occasionally change back into traffic lights.

Trivia: The United States' first saccharine ban was repealed when World War I broke out and sugar prices rose drastically; saccharine was a cheap alternative. Source: Sweet and Low, Rich Cohen.

Currently Reading: That Was The Life, Dora Jane Hamblin.

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