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Monday, July 19, 2004  

Honk if Your Horn Works

If someone had told me a year ago that Minneapolis's Lake Street was good for anything besides scaring the hell out of white suburbanites, I would have disbelieved that person. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, nobody takes Lake Street; the traffic is too bad.

But if the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, Lake Street is the longest straight line between my house and my office. And since the freeways that are perfectly passable in the morning become positively Los Angeleno in the afternoon, surface streets are the way to go.

The thing about Lake is it's one of the older, if not original, streets in Minneapolis. There's a traffic light every other block, but Lake Street—and most of the buildings that flank it—was built before God invented left-turn lanes. The result of this should be rush-hour gridlock, but most of the traffic lights are accompanied by signs forbidding left turns between 4 and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Remarkably enough, it actually works. While far from goose-shit smooth, afternoon Lake Street traffic is nowhere near the nightmare it would be if it weren't for those signs. Because, believe it or not, people actually obey them.

At least, they did until my car horn broke.

The only way to get anywhere on Lake is to constantly switch back and forth to the lane that's moving the fastest at that particular moment. Or, if neither lane is moving because everyone's stopped at a red light, you get in the lane that has the fewest cars waiting to go. Especially at the no-left-turn intersections, because it's not like one of the two cars is going to hold everyone up waiting to take a left. Unless my car horn is broken, which it is. And which they do.

During my first eight months of this commute, getting stuck behind somebody who was flouting this relatively simple traffic rule was rare indeed. Annoying, but rare. Now that I can't do anything about it, it happens almost once a week. And flashing my brights at an offender isn't really going to send much of a message, especially when he's three or four cars ahead of me. Screaming at someone won't do the trick either. At least, it didn't seem to be working for that really angry guy going the opposite direction from me in a dune buggy.

Obviously I need to get my horn fixed. There have been a few occasions where the lack of one has been life-threatening, in addition to these rage-induced aneurysms I keep having on the way home. There were three separate occasions during the Fourth of July weekend alone:
Driving north on France in the outside lane, we were passing a car in the inside lane when it started coming over. I hit the brakes, and she checked her blind spot before hitting me, which is not as good as checking your blind spot BEFORE YOU MAKE THE DAMN LANE CHANGE, but a horn would have come in handy at that particular time. And also for the next several blocks of following her at full blast.

Moments later, a guy came to a stop sign on a cross street. He checked very carefully that no traffic was coming at him from the right. His right was completely clear. No one on the right at all. Too bad I was NEARLY LEVEL WITH HIS FENDER COMING FROM HIS LEFT when he started pulling out in front of innocent, horn-less, no stop-sign-having, right-of-way-using me. Idiot. I think the only reason he stopped was because the woman in his shotgun seat saw us in time.

And the very next day, some addlepated moron in a BMW (which in this case stood for "Bimbo in My Way") nearly sideswiped us on the freeway. Although I don't think that one was because she didn't see us. I think it was because she was TWEEZING HER EYEBROWS IN HER REARVIEW MIRROR AT SEVENTY-FIVE MILES PER HOUR. She needed a good honking-at anyway.
My Dad's been under my hood, and it's not the fuse, like I thought it was. Otherwise it would be fixed by now. No, it's somewhere in the wiring, or in the horn itself. Dad's looking into getting me the parts it needs.

I heard once about somebody who had one of the old Volkswagen Beetles, back when they had the engine in the back and the trunk in the front. This person installed a big-ass air horn off of a semi-truck under his hood. That way, when somebody cut off his Bug, he'd treat them not to a Herbie-like beep, but a deafening BWAAAAAAAAAA!!! The reaction was invariably priceless. I'm thinking of doing the same thing to my Saturn when I replace my horn. Of course, I'll miss my engine, but I'll be so happy to have a horn again that I won't even care.

The neighbors might, though.

Today's best search phrase: "M. Giant Velcrometer." It's nice to know that every once in a while, Google bring me someone who finds exactly what they're looking for.

posted by M. Giant 8:38 PM 0 comments


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