114. Horn

As you know, here at UAE Uncut headquarters we do like a good invention and we are also very fond of history.  Of all the species on Earth, man can lay claim to some of the greatest inventions in the entire history of the world.  What have those lazy badgers ever built?  Or those good for nothing whales?  Nothing, all they have ever done is exist solely to provide National Geographic with something to air when nothing else is on any of the good channels.

No, the human race is replete with iconic names of great men and women who have dreamt, designed and engineered everything you see around you, from the Kia Sportage you drove to work this morning to the zipper on your trousers.  Inventions are nothing new; we’ve been at it for years.  It started with some hairy cave dwellers making wheels, progressed a little bit when the Romans built the sword, horse and aqueduct, then kind of stayed fairly flat for a while until the Georgians built the regal wig.  Then, when the Victorians turned up we went on a roll.  All of a sudden we had steam locomotives, were able to harness electricity, talk to people over great distances with two cups and a piece of string and then the car came along.

Thomas Edison, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Archimedes of Syracuse, well ok, he was ancient Greek.  Oh, and Leonardo Da Vinci, he was before the Victorians, but I’ve discarded him because that code film he made was boring.  Ok, Edison was American, not a British Victorian, but, you know.  Yes I know that Brunel wasn’t an inventor but an Engineer… shut up and let me write.  Anyway the point is that the general public began to benefit from inventions for everyday use more so in the 19th Century than they did in any century previously.

Sadly, letting the public loose with wonderful inventions can have its own perils and tribulations.  Things get copied, broken, abused and of course misused.  For example, the hammer was invented as a tool so you could tap nails into things; it was not designed as a weapon.  DVD players were invented to play DVD’s and not to hold doors open and kettles were meant to boil water, not become part of a Tate Modern exhibit.  Then what about Apple?  They invent the same thing over and over again, just in different sizes, and we go out, buy them and pretend that they are phones.

As you would expect, then, there is one device that has completely lost its purpose in life, misused for decades and cursed by all mortals; the car horn.  Yes, the car horn was designed and intended for a purpose that very few alive today actually realise.  The history books sadly do not credit the individual mastermind behind the car horn, but its intentions however are clearly documented.

In the late 19th Century the amount of cars on the city roads began to increase; pathetic Austin Metro’s, horrible Austin Allegro’s and rubbish Austin Princess’s were everywhere.  Of course back then, particularly in London, the road was still for horses, carriages, pedestrians, market stalls and truant children.  The car – with its ferocious capability of being able to reach speeds in excess of 4 mph – needed a way of letting people know that it was coming.  As such each vehicle was fitted with a noise-making device that could be sounded whenever the driver approached a slow-trotting nag or an annoying pedestrian.  It was a warning that they were there and in all far better for everyone concerned.

Sadly, as mans arrogance began to surge throughout the 20th Century the use of the horn took on an array of different meanings.  Now we’re in the futuristic 21st Century it can also mean: “Get out of my way”, “I’m coming through”, “Oi”, “Look at me, look at me, look at me”, “I’m an idiot who lacks in the gentleman’s department”, “I don’t like you”, “Waiter, waiter!  I’m hungry, please bring me some diabetes”, “I like you very much indeed”, “Will you go out with me?”, “I like your car”, “I hate your face”, “You just cut me up on the roundabout”, “You’re driving too slowly”, “I’m in a rush, but not really, but I just want to get in front of you”, “You’re not doing anything wrong, I just really like my horn”, “Blast this infernal traffic”, “I’m showing my friends how badass I am” and of course “The traffic light is red, why are you still waiting there, motionless, for it to change to green?”

Most of you in the Western world – apart from those in Rome maybe – haven’t heard many of these horn meanings, but I assure you, in the UAE they are in plentiful supply.  There you are sitting at the red lights and the clown behind you in his Land Cruiser starts sounding the horn.  What does he expect you to do, mow the pedestrians down?  Then you’re sitting at a busy roundabout trying to pull out safely, waiting for a safe gap so you are not killed, and yep, there he is, Johnny Moron and his horn right behind you.

Lookit pal, it says right here on line 5, and I quote "thou shalt not use thee horn in an underground car park for 40 minutes."  That English bloke in the Hyundai will thump you...

Lookit pal, it says right here on line 5, and I quote “thou shalt not use thee horn in an underground car park for 40 minutes.” That English bloke in the Hyundai will thump you if you carry on…

Then you’re walking along the street and Johnny Lazy-ass pulls up in front of a restaurant.  You’d expect a normal person to get out of the car and go inside but no, the horn is sounded and a little man in red trousers and a rather fetching hat comes running out with a menu.  Later, you’re driving home waiting at the lights and the gomer alongside sounds the horn to get your attention.  You wind down your window and, after some alarming lip licking, he begins to pitch woo.  Then it’s late on a Thursday night and you’re off out for a beer.  Before you can walk into the hotel bar and have your ear drums turned into a fine dust you are subjected to a barrage of beeps and honks outside the hotel main entrance.  No, they’re not trying to attract the attention of the concierge; they’re trying to let you know that they can afford a Mercedes AMG and that you should be very, very impressed.  We’re not, mate.

I was in Dubai Mall on Monday night at closing, and I won’t lie, trying to leave the car park was a nightmare, it was backed up for miles.  That didn’t stop the ill-educated imbecile 3 cars ahead of me sounding the horn constantly for 40 solid minutes, relentlessly, without pause.  What did he think was going to happen?  Did he think Moses would show up and part the sea of cars?

There is no solution for this as far as I can tell.  The horn was invented as a warning to let those around know that you were there, now, it simply serves as a warning that you are near an idiot.

Why couldn’t man foresee the consequences of inventing something that causes such misery?

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One thought on “114. Horn

  1. Ivan Kalinin says:

    Loved it. That was the issue to catch my eye (or ears?) in first place after moving to Dubai. Not to mention a western world — even at my home city we usually use the horn in cases when we’re literally ready to kill the driver the honking is addressed to. Here though it looked like a constant hatred among the drivers to each other. Took me a while to understand but it still bloody irritates me.

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