Hooter honkers drive us all bonkers
It used to be that pushing your hooter was meant to be a warning but, somehow, over the years the hooter has become a vulgar expression of annoyance and a threat to anyone with keen and sensitive ears .
It doesn't matter what time of the day it is, a hooter can be heard signaling whatever a motorist cannot express loudly enough in words, or with hand gestures!
For many drivers, the response to the slightest inconvenience is the angry transfer of their full body weight onto the hooter; the louder and longer, the better, it seems.
Unfortunately, when one motorist hoots at another, it seems obligatory for the other to hoot back. So, back and forth it goes, like some crazy, horrible, tuneless language.
The history of the car hooter from the 19th century on reveals that its initial purpose was to warn other road-users. Today, though, it has become the vehicular equivalent of a series of asterisks and vile, unprintable language.
It is sad to see just how far from proper hooter decorum we have strayed. Back then, quaint bells, whistles, and even rubber squeakers, were the warning devices of choice.
However, as traffic became heavier, a stronger sound was required. Thus it was that, in the 1960s, car makers settled on the musical notes E and C flat as the ones most effective at piercing through the traffic noise.
Fast forward to today's world, in which engine noise has been drastically reduced and you'll note (excuse the pun) that the car hooter is paradoxically, A more shrill F-sharp or A-sharp, which cuts through just about everything (except blaring music, sirens and those muppets wearing earplugs while driving).
This all begs a question: is it really necessary to freak out if the driver in front of you does not automatically jump onto the accelerator the second a traffic light turns green?
Does it get you to your destination faster if you hoot at the elderly, or learner, driver so that, instead of moving, they panic and stall the engine instead?
Be honest. Are you that demented driver who, when stuck in a long queue, hoots as if demonically possessed, even when you can see no one else is moving and that there is nowhere to go?
Of course, one simply cannot have a discussion about hooter abuse without mentioning taxi drivers, who seem to use their hooters to ask the question: "Do you need a ride?" of each and every pedestrian they pass.
What baffles me is, that taxis operate on specific routes. So why is there this need to ask every pedestrian if he or she is going their way?
Buses also operate on pre-determined routes, yet you never hear a bus driver's hooter blaring at pedestrians to ask if they are indeed going that way?
When you consider that, in countries such as India - where cyclists, pedestrians and cows crowd roads in such numbers that you can't even be sure you are on a road - their warning device of choice is a rubber bulb hooter mounted on the outside of the driver's window; and drivers use it very sparingly.
It sort of gives you a sense that something is terribly wrong here in South Africa, doesn't it?
Remember too, that in some parts of Asia, if a cow decides to march into peak traffic (which happens all the time), stretch its legs before lying down, and then stays there for a half-hour nap, traffic pretty much comes to a halt without a toot from anyone. It's just not done over there.
I'm not suggesting that hooter abuse is a distinctly South African phenomenon, although South Africans do have a tendency to throw hooter hissy fits.
But I am suggesting that, at the core of the hooter problem is the larger issue of lack of respect for others - something increasingly evident in our society.
It's not rocket science, but rather a matter of decency and, for the life of me, I don't know how that can be instilled in people.
Are their technological solutions - such as laws restricting the number of toots one can emit on any one day; a sort of a daily ration, if you will?
Or a manufacturing solution - if you hit the hooter too hard it quits after two or three honks?
Or if you apply pressure to it for a certain length of time, it simply fades away, and doesn't work again for a period of time?
Are these ways we can stop these continuous, unrelenting blasts from hooter hogs?
Alas, until some innovative motor manufacturer or entrepreneur does this, or until we, collectively, rediscover common courtesy, we're left with little recourse but to go deaf.
Loud noises of any nature affect our health and blood pressure levels; and with all the corruption and rising costs of living, quality of life drops and heart failure proliferates.
That's nothing to honk your horn at.