Friday, February 25, 2005

Honking versus horning

Driving home last night I came to a halt behind a car that was waiting at a red light. A sticker in the back window instructed: HONK YOUR BRAINS OUT it won’t take long. My first thought was that this kind of slogan would have more meaning in India where just about every truck bumper, fender or rickshaw back trunk carries the instruction HORN PLEASE OK. But on reflection I thought, "No, not so", for in India to horn (yes, it is widely used as a verb) is an essential part of driving for to drive without horning is positively dangerous. Trust me; it is not a cliché to say that it is safer to drive on Indian roads without a rear view mirror and a properly functioning brake than to drive without a loud and persistent horn. In spite of a perfectly standard Highway Code the only rule of the road that is observed and observed religiously is the unwritten one that assumes all drivers keep a close eye on what is in front and if at all possible avoid hitting anything. This usually demands frequent use of the horn. By the way, there is one instruction in the Indian Highway Code that is, I remember noting, somewhat unusual. It is the one that suggests that if a vehicle is involved in an accident the driver and other occupants of the vehicle stay inside and lock the doors until the arrival of the police. This supposedly will protect you from the unwanted attentions of an irate crowd who will, without exception, be of the firm opinion that irrespective of the facts of the case the biggest vehicle involved in the collision is THE one at fault and the only way to deal with the situation is to give the driver a good beating. In all the brouhaha that is sure to arise it is often the case that no one bothers to enquire after the health or otherwise of the unfortunate victim(s). But I digress.

Yes, Indian drivers do use the horn frequently but almost always in the context of ensuring safety on the roads for more often than not the horning is a substitute for a shouted, "Get out the way fast, I’m coming through". All too often the way the honk is used in New Zealand or in Britain and probably in other counties as well, is quite the opposite of this. Here it is used aggressively and often as a sign of impatience. I think this probably excuses the somewhat nasty tone of the sticker HONK YOUR BRAINS OUT it won’t take long. How annoying is it to be sitting at a red light picking your nose, checking out your hairstyle in the rear few mirror, searching for the lipstick in your handbag or just generally having a good time only to be interrupted by the honk from behind? I mean, how unpleasant is that? After all, it WAS only 2 seconds ago that the red light turned green!

I offer for consideration a possible solution. Let’s all stop honking and instead adopt the Indian habit of horning. We can then all drive around politely horning. Never again will the unmindful dilly dallier be embarrassed/annoyed/upset by honking and never again will the impatient-to-get-on-their-way honker be misunderstood.


Anonymous Amber said...

Yes, very good idea, but can we call it beeping or tooting instead of horning? It just... well, it just sounds rude :)

2:43 AM  
Blogger Omykiss said...

Sorry amber ... it just has to be horning. Nothing else quite describes the noise ;)

4:53 PM  

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