Hello Again! After weeks of suffering from writer’s block I felt inspiration returning as I set about writing my Monday Morning Perspective this week. With my writing flow still in full swing when I finished, I decided to delve into the topic I alluded to in this previous blog. My subject matter has everything to do with the roller coaster of emotions associated with something some think to be stressful, some think to be mundane, and if the truth were told, most never think about it at all!

My topic: CAR HORNS!

You see, growing up in New York beeping horns were a familiar sound. If someone hesitated too long at the stop sign—BEEP, BEEP, BEEP.  If someone didn’t move fast enough when the light turned green—BEEP, BEEP, BEEP.  If someone thought you were going too slow, never mind the speed limit— BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!  You get the picture.  For this reason, and the reason I mentioned in my last blog, car horns were a source of stress for me.  I mean, I didn’t need to constantly be reminded that I wasn’t keeping up with the fast pace of a New Yorker.

When I relocated to LA from New York (that’s Lower Alabama, not Los Angeles) my children were too young to “inherit” this aversion to car horns. I mean, you could go months and months and months without ever hearing a horn beep with urgency to prod you along.  There was no super highway of life where we lived.  As a matter of fact, things always seemed to move in slow motion.  And when things move in slow motion there really is no need to hurry people along.

To say horns never beeped in LA would be an untruth. There were several exceptions to this “no beep” mentality, and none of those were associated with urgency. You could sit at a stop light behind someone through two, three, even more green lights that came and went and you just didn’t ever think of blowing your horn.  You would gaze out the window looking at anything and everything, engage in polite conversation with the people sharing your ride, sing to the radio or just about anything you could think of to occupy your mind until the person in front of you was ready to proceed through the light.  It was a way of life.

I never really gave this much thought when I moved south. It was the person I was inside and I just embraced the change with no period of transition.  The idea that things really were different in my little southern town was heralded in one afternoon when I took my still small children to visit family in New York.  We had just gotten off the New Jersey Turnpike when the sounds of horns seemed to fill the air.  Had he continued to live in New York my 3 year old son would have been acclimated to the sound, but with all memories of his young years erased he looked at me in wonderment and asked, “WHAT IS THAT SOUND?”  And what amazed him just reinforced my dread of that BEEP, BEEP, BEEP! And horror of horrors, some of it was coming from my vehicle.

You see, for a very long time a funny thing happened to me each and every time I went back to visit family. I no sooner hit the New York border than I unconsciously assumed the demeanor of what I imagined was that of the majority of New York drivers.  I became part of their “hurry up” world.  When someone beeped the horn at me, I returned the beep.  It was my vain attempt at saying, “I’m from the south, leave me alone, let me do the speed limit, let me come to a complete stop at the stop sign.”  Yes, I become a BEEPER!

My first experience with turning to the dark side of horn blowing occurred shortly after returning home from this trip. We were in the process of building a new house and in need of a second vehicle.  In trying to keep bills down we purchased a “slightly used” car with a “reputation”.  If you were to research cars under such categories as; The Worst Cars Ever Made, The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History, or just World’s Worst Lemons –you would find a picture of a YUGO (appropriately named for its production in Yugoslavia).  It was a low horsepower, compact vehicle that appealed to people because of its price tag.  At $3,990 new people were willing to take a chance.  Its entire heyday came and went in 1985.  By the end of that year the YUGOS problems were widely known and by 1986 they could be bought second hand with low miles and cheap.  By the time we needed a second car in 1988 we could pick up a YUGO with very low miles for a VERY good price.  We were living overseas in 1985 and by the time we returned stateside the distress associated with this car was a thing of the past.  We didn’t hear the horrors of the YUGO, and I’m glad of this because it served us well.  It did have a few little problems but we could work with them.

Now, I loved that car. As promised it did get good gas mileage, and it was easy to get in and out of parking spaces. It was so light if it broke down I was sure I could push it home, even if it were miles down the road, uphill even.  Our children had plenty of room and if we needed to go somewhere as a family we always had the Coachmen. Everything went well until the day the horn started beeping when I turned the wheel farther than 45 degrees (now just take your arm and simulate that angle because it doesn’t represent any more than a gentle curve).  At first it was sporadic so not too concerning.  However, as time wore on it got worse and the horn would beep at the slightest turn of the wheel, EVERY TIME!

Remember I said there were exceptions to the no-beep ‘law’ in our small town. Well, one was to wave at your neighbor or friend or family or stranger, or whoever.  The other was to celebrate a win by your hometown football team, basketball team, soccer team……. A broken horn did not fit into either of these categories.

At this time our daughter was in preschool and the drop off door was at the end of a long circular driveway. At least 30 cars fit in the driveway at once, we’re talking loooooong.  Well, there was no doubt that her teachers and any of the children who happened to beat us to school (remember I like to be early) knew when Kristen was coming.  It wasn’t a loud beep but it was consistent.  From the time we started turning in the driveway you could hear the BEEP, BEEP BEEP, BEEP, until we dropped her off at the door.  Then when we went back to pick her up, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP.  Kids would yell, “Kristen, there’s your mother.”  And it was no big deal—until field trip day when every one of those 35 kids wanted to ride in the “BEEP, BEEP” car.  And we went on A LOT of field trips.

The beep, beep, beep continued for several months before I started hearing a little clanging in the steering wheel and decided to take the front panel off (I know you didn’t think it had air bags). What I found was a tiny piece of metal loose in the compartment.  As I turned the wheel it connected with the horn and hence the “beep”.  I removed the metal bead and much to the dismay of the preschool children who fought to ride in the “BEEP BEEP” car the horn never beeped again, not even when we pushed on it.

Months of hearing my own horn beep was like exposure therapy to me. No more stress over car horns. When I visited my family in New York and somebody beeped at me to hurry I beeped back three times. Beep (I) Beep (hear) Beep (you).  Sometimes if I feel like I am being “yelled” at by a horn, I yell back with one long BEEEEEEEEP! But there was no more stress associated with it.

Yes there was no more car horn anxiety until……fast forward 17 years. We were now living in upstate NY and had traveled downstate in two cars to celebrate Thanksgiving at my sister’s. After spending the night at my parent’s house (our first holiday without Daddy) we got in cars to travel the 40 minutes for dinner.  My mom’s driveway was such that two cars fit in front of the garage but the driveway narrowed to one car width at the street.  My mom and my daughter’s car sat side by side facing the house and our car was parked facing the road at the end of the drive.

We had long ago gotten rid of our YUGO and now had a three year old car in excellent condition. Both inside and outside still looked new. The only problem it had was that the horn didn’t work…or at least it didn’t beep. When you pushed down on the horn it sounded exactly like a duck, QUACK, and just about as loud.  This wasn’t an issue at all, it was actually something we laughed about…until this particular day!

Our daughter was riding with my mom and Dave and I were just getting in the car when a car stopped in my sister’s driveway next door and a young man got out. It was my niece’s new boyfriend.  We had never met him before and it was quite apparent that my mother hadn’t either.  I should tell you that my mother often expresses her pride at not minding other people’s business.  Well, her pride was obviously taking a few days off for the holidays because her neck was so stretched looking into the yard next door that I’m surprised it isn’t droopy to this day. My niece had come out of the house to meet her boyfriend and with Kristen in the passenger seat my mother continued to look beyond her while putting the car into gear.

I could see the reverse lights come on and my mother’s car begin to slowly inch toward us. Dave hit the horn button, QUACK!  QUACK!  but my mother continued on what had now become a dual mission.  Number one-get to my sister’s for Thanksgiving dinner and Number two- get a really good look at my niece’s new boyfriend without them knowing she was looking. Unfortunately for us, we sat right in the path of her mission with no way to escape.  My mother’s normally traffic bare street was busy with holiday commuters and we were unable to pull out right away.  QUACK, QUACK, QUACK!  Even though everything was happening in such slow motion we were unable to stop the inevitable.  My mother, who by now was so consumed with her spying mission as to cause a temporary lapse of memory, was oblivious to the fact that we were right behind her. She continued backward, QUACK, QUACK, QUACK, slowly turning toward the center of the driveway to navigate the one car length, so engrossed in espionage that she didn’t even feel the impact that lifted our poor car off the ground.  She had connected just forward of the driver’s door all the while still looking next door while our ‘horn’ quacked like a mother duck rounding up her brood. She continued to lift us higher until I’m sure my panicked daughter must have brought her back to reality.  The look on my daughter’s face that day…..priceless!

Although the damage looked to be little more than a dent, an insurance adjuster later determined it to be $1800 worth. It seems the impact occurred in a place where opening the hood was difficult and caused metal to rub against metal.  Since we rarely opened the hood, and filing it with insurance would have caused a rate increase for my mother, we decided to forgo the repair and just deduct the cost of fixing it when we sold the car.

Now, the Monday we placed a for sale ad in the paper a young man showed up between working two jobs to look at the ‘quacker’. He didn’t quibble about the price at all and we agreed to give him until Friday to pick it up!

Friday came and a truck dropped him off in our driveway and pulled away. I guess there was not going to be any backing out of this deal.  Opening his wallet to take out the cash he proudly shared pictures of a toddler who looked just like him.  He told us he was purchasing the car for his wife as a present for Valentine’s Day and how he had saved secretly for a second one. His wife was expecting another baby and it was hard to get her to appointments and where she needed to go with only one vehicle and him working two jobs.

While the young man transferred license plates Dave went inside to get the title and write out a bill of sale and I hurriedly boxed up a necklace and earring set, and put a child’s set of hat, gloves and scarf in a bag with a remote control car (jewelry sales had been a side business for several years and we had expanded to small items of clothing and toys that Christmas season). Before we went back outside there was a simple exchange.  We both knew it was coming it was just a matter of who spoke the words and who nodded their head.  This day it was my turn to speak, “we can’t take his money”, and Dave’s turn to nod in agreement.

So we went out to a proud man with the car title, a gift for his wife and child for Valentine’s Day, and a handful of cash he had counted out for us a short time earlier. He didn’t want to accept the car for free and wanted to use the last of the money in his wallet to pay for the gifts we were giving him.  I don’t remember the exact exchange of words but I do know that Dave told him that he would need the money to fix the dent my mother made the day her spying mission caused temporary amnesia (for which we had already deducted the cost off the selling price). When the man was still hesitant I said, “and the horn doesn’t work very well, you’ll want to get that fixed.”  With that he finally accepted our gifts and the cash back. As he was headed up the road we saw his hand come out the window and heard the familiar QUACK, QUACK, QUACK!

Now I’d like to tell you that I can top those two horn stories but the fact is that I can’t. I do, however, have a different relationship with my horn these days!  For instance, my granddaughter is still young enough to take pleasure in the simple things in life.  If we happen to be going on a back road with no houses nearby I’ll say, “Do you want papa to blow the horn?” And of course she says yes, and of course he does, and we all laugh; Maddie at the horn and Dave and I at the innocence of a child.

And if truth be told, though this may cause panic to some of you and for this I apologize in advance, I have another relationship with my horn of late. Yes, I am one of those people! Ahhhhh!  I didn’t ever want to be but circumstances forced it upon me.  It began so simply.  First I misplaced my glasses, then my purse, then my car.  There are days I go shopping and not only can’t I remember which aisle I parked in but I have no memory of  which side of the store I came in either.  On these days my horn becomes my new best friend.  I simple take out my car key and depress that little red button with the sound waves on it and I listen for the familiar sound of my horn beckoning me to my car.  Sometimes, if I go out the wrong door it is too faint to get a fix on and I have to walk in the direction I think it sounded from and sound it again. The reactions of people are from one extreme to the other.  Children look at me in wonder, as if to say “how’d she do that?” Young adults have a different viewpoint, their stare conveys a “that’s so annoying” look.  And then there are those middle to senior age adults who look at me with that understanding, “you, too” gaze.

Now, I’m not one to worry about what other people think of me doing this but I do worry about what happens when my hearing fails and I can no longer hear my “friend” calling BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!

Have a blessed week all. Do something fun every day and laugh a lot.  And I hope when you hear a car horn you remember this Monday Morning Perspective and laugh a little more.

God Bless Each of You!

Penny