Off the Press

February 1, 2011

By Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor Press sports editor

Jazz horns are all that cars should have

There are times when I really enjoy a good horn. When I’m feeling rather mellow, there’s nothing better than listening to the soft, silky sounds of Miles Davis. Or, if I’m really feeling up, I enjoy the sound of ol’ Satchmo —  Louis Armstrong.

Dizzy Gillespie, Doc Severson, Clifford Brown are some of my other favorite trumpeters.

I like listening to music from great saxophone players like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Stan Getz, too. There are times when I play CDs of big bands and listen to Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey on the trombones.

Yes, I like a good horn.

There is one horn, though, that I have found quite offensive —  that’s the one used by some motorists.

I don’t mind the “Beepty! Beep! Beep!” that a driver uses if they see me cruising down Front Street. The driver is just letting me know “Hi ya, Bob!”

But some discourteous motorists seem to use the automobile horn as a weapon.

I’ve seen some honkers ignite road rage on the freeways. Recently, I was heading home and saw a car come up behind another car. Apparently, the driver in front was going too slow so the motorist in back blasted the horn loud enough that everyone on Interstate 405 could hear it. The driver in front went even slower. Finally, the driver in back passed the other driver, who retaliated by blasting his horn.

I’ve seen drivers honk at other drivers going into drive-up bank tellers and in supermarket parking lots.

And, I’ve been blasted a few times, too.

I have been honked at for going 25 mph in a 25 mph zone, going 35 in a 35 and 60 in a 60. I’m not willing to speed up to get a ticket for anyone.

I have been honked at for slowing to let another car enter a street. Apparently, the person behind me must have been in a hurry to return an overdue library book.

I have been honked at while stopping at an intersection. I always check traffic from all directions before moving on. Yet, there are some motorists that expect you to bolt across like you were starting at the Indianapolis 500.

Probably the strangest honk I got was one time at local fast food restaurant. As I was studying the menu, a car pulled up behind and the driver laid on the horn. Now, I wasn’t studying for my SATs and I wasn’t impeding traffic, because there were two cars in front of me.

Apparently, the person in the SUV didn’t see the other cars. However, the driver got so frustrated that I wouldn’t move, that he or she backed up and sped to a parking spot in front of the restaurant. To this day, I am mystified why the driver honked at me. Perhaps, he or she was concerned the restaurant might run out of Whoppers.

People, get a life!

For today’s history lesson, the car horn was originally developed for safety in the late 1880s. Back then, motorists had the option of using bulbhorns, whistles and bells. Oliver Lucas, of Birmingham, England, is credited with developing the first electric car horn. I think his company probably wanted to design a horn to scare all the sheep in the English countryside. Or, maybe to persuade the Guernsey cows to mooove aside.

One of the unique car horns was developed for the Model T and Model A Fords in the 1920s and 1930s. The horn made an “ah-ooh-ga” sound.

Over the years, car horns have gone through many changes. Currently, the horn in most cars reach levels approximately in the range of 109-112 decibels. Having listened to some honkers, my guess is some horns might even surpass 112 decibels.

What many motorists might not be aware of is that there is a state law regarding abusing other drivers with car horns. The penalty for undue honking is $124. We can be thankful we don’t live in Harrisburg, Pa., where the fee can go as high as $1,000.

So, the next time you feel frenzied and have a need to lay on the horn, don’t. Just put in a Miles Davis CD.

Bob Taylor: 392-6434, ext. 236, or bobtaylor@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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