Tooting own horn doesn’t work nowadays

How many car “beeps‘ does it take to warn someone of possible danger?

I beeped twice at a white-haired woman at the tail end of a car she was scraping snow from. Her back was facing an oncoming van, which had its turn signal on, waiting for the woman to at least take notice of an intent to park right next to the passenger side of the car she had just exited.

She was paying no attention, and I feared that she would simply walk into “an accident” or be frightened out of her wits if she failed to look at the van coming into the last vacant spot for handicapped parking.

I beeped my horn twice. She never blinked. Never acknowledged anything might have been amiss. Never looked into my direction or, more importantly, in the direction of the now-oncoming van.

The driver of the van eased into the spot. The woman, who looked in her mid-70s, might have had a problem with hearing. But she seemed all right when talking and appearing to exchange words with a gentlemen who got out of the same car and was accompanying to an Aldi store just outside my hometown in Norristown, PA.

I then heard two more beeps from the horn of a car. They came from the parked van. The driver had evidentially “locked” the doors of the vehicle. The person had pointed their hand at the van, and must have clicked a remote button. The two sounds from the horn were identical to the sounds I offered in trying to gain attention from the inattentive woman.

No wonder it didn’t work! We have grown accustomed to the two-beep announcement of the locked doors. In providing a new advancement, technology may have taken away one of our sure-fire warning devices. We have been using a car horn for over 100 years to announce to pedestrians and other drivers to take heed, to use caution. To pay attention to our vehicle’s route or intended direction. Now it won’t work unless one becomes extremely rude and holds their hand on the horn for one of those horrendously long bellowing sounds that all of us detest.

The two-beep warning might have made some people angry upon hearing it. And maybe it led to some cities, like Nashville, Tenn., the country music capital of the USA, to ban the use of the horn altogether. Others, particularly small ones in the South, prefer the horn not be used except for dire emergencies.

We should alter the sound of the two-beep door lock. Make them “bips,” instead of “beeps.” You know, a millisecond of the sound from the horn instead of a full beep.

Surely technology could do something like that to preserve such a safety measure given us by the auto industry.

And, now that I’m on this subject, how about getting rid of all car alarms that beep and beep until you want to get a tire iron from your trunk and give the noisy car something to really beep about. They should be banned, and the remote announcers muffled or “bipped” down.

This way, horn-blowers could return to being the type of Good Samaritans that our “whistle-blowers” have become in society. Where would we be without ’em?

4 comments on “Tooting own horn doesn’t work nowadays

  1. kim says:

    I just have to comment to this. Michael, the first thing I thought of was that she was ‘deaf’ One in three people over 65 have hearing loss, so the chances are good that she didn’t hear. I too appear ‘normal’ to most people until they get to know me. I lip read well, and most are surprised when they learn how bad my hearing is. I don’t hear beeps of any kind– car beeps, microwave beeps, fire alarm beeps. I hear nothing.

    But I do agree the world has become a noisier place. I was astonished how much noise I could hear with these new aids, and I can easily see how people could because desensitized to certain sounds. 🙂


    • contoveros says:

      I thought of you when writing this, and added the piece about her discussion with the elderly gentleman while walking away with him. She “appeared” to be turning her head toward him when she spoke to him. But, she could have been reading lips.

      Why hasn’t technology created a device for the hearing impaired to feel “vibrations” from some beeping signal like a microwave oven, a car horn or a fire alarm? I don’t know. Could it possibly work with a wrist band or other small device? Have it work from a 20 to 30-foot radius.

      michael j


  2. Aeve says:

    It’s a good point you make about the car locking beeps desensitising us. Interesting that there are different views about car horns, I didn’t know they were banned in some places. I was in Bali 15 years ago, and it was considered courteous to beep and announce your overtaking. The sound of horns honking lots was part of everyday life. Maybe things have changed now.


    • contoveros says:

      “Beeping to overtake.” Now that is something I’d like to hear.

      Another thing. Flashing your highbeams once to alert the car that has overtaken you that it is safe to cross back into the right lane. Many truckers do it as a courtesy. It might be something we can learn from them.

      michael j


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