Shut the Hell Up, Philly
So a colleague of mine who recently moved from the West Coast said that one of the changes he welcomed was that, unlike the gentle souls of Seattle, we Philadelphians actually made good use of our car horns.
I think he must have been really hard up for something nice to say about Philly.
Because, really. The car horn situation in this town is out of control, no? We are, undeniably, a city of constant honkers, of selfish noise polluters, of angry blaring aural aggressors, of annoying attention hogs who are constantly blaring our way through our lives and our streets.
I do it too, the horn thing—though I like to think I do it judiciously. (Probably, though, I’m just as big a jackass with a horn as every other jackass with a horn.) I do that friendly tap-tap honk when the woman in front of me on her cell hasn’t noticed the light turn green; I give a longer note signaling panic when I think someone doesn’t see me; I do the whole long, angry honk with feeling when someone on the Schuylkill tries to kill me with his Land Rover.
And while I’ll admit that a bracing, heartfelt honk sometimes feels righteous and good, it feels much less good when I’m walking down the city sidewalks, where rage thickens the air in a cacophony from angry cabbies and pissed off moms in SUVs, whose horns are louder than the space shuttle launch.
It feels much less good when I’m on my bike, and some old-timer in his Beamer is honking away because I have the gall to try to share his road (which is both unfair, as I follow all rules of the road whilst on two wheels, and, as many cyclists can attest, absolutely terrifying). And it feels much less good when I’m in the car and some Jersey transplant in a Nissan lays on her horn while I am parallel parking on Green Street, vexed because she has to wait the 46 seconds it will take me to back in. (And if you’re reading this, lady? I can promise that extra noise and scrutiny ain’t gonna get me in that spot any faster. Also: You live in a city. People parallel park.)
Certain areas of New York and Chicago both have no-honking ordinances, as do some California cities. I’m sure it’s sporadically enforced at best, but the very idea that a city might try to encourage people to think before they honk … well, I like it. I’d gladly curb the majority of my own honking if it meant that I wouldn’t have to listen to the atonal symphony of horns ricocheting off every corner of every building, all the livelong day.
Because if I’ve learned one thing on the mean streets of Philly? It’s that rage begets rage, people. The needless bellow from an impatient driver that pierces my eardrum leads to my giving said driver the stink-eye, which leads to a middle finger out the window, which translates to a lot of bad vibes out there. Like we need more of those.
And no, I’m not suggesting that less honking will stop the insanity of flash mobs or end the absurd battles between cyclists and drivers on our roads … just that there’s gotta be a reason they call it peace and quiet.