The underutilisation of the humble car horn

I for one, use my car horn only when I am REALLY annoyed at someone which happens quite a lot on the Gold Coast. People are always cutting you off, not allowing you to merge or running through the roundabout without giving way. Traffic and road rage is a very real thing that I experience a couple of times a year. When I do engage with my horn, it is usually used sparingly to jolt the other driver awake or make them aware that you are “not happy Jan” (anyone remember that ad?) about what they have just done. It is a blaring alarm, punched hard with the palm of your hand in anger, often followed with a crude hand gesture or perhaps some swear words for effect. Then, if the opportunity arises and you happen to pass the offender or stop at the lights, it is proper road rage ‘etiquette’ to glare at them even when they don’t look or pretend not to notice your crazy eyes boring a hole into the side of their head. This of course, infuriates you further.

If you have ever been to a third world country, you are probably familiar with the constant honking and erratic driving that is both thrilling and terrifying all at once. However throughout my travels, I have come to appreciate the many opportunities of the humble horn that most westerners seem to have let slip away.

Indonesia was one of my first overseas trips and the driving style really was a shock for a fresh faced 20 year old me. The ducking and weaving, the horns blaring at all times of the day (and night), the stop, start rhythm and the squealing brakes. I watched out of the taxi window in horror and thought to myself, how am I going to get around? I can’t surely drive in that. It still humours me to think that it took only two days before I felt like the chaotic driving was perfectly normal and I then proceeded to hire a scooter and join the rat race (yes, just like every other Australian tourist).

The memory of these roads had begun to fade from my mind as my last two holidays were to developed countries where structure and order were the main ingredient of their well organised transport cake. Once I arrived in Sri Lanka I was quickly jolted back in time and suffered déjà vu with that familiar backing track of many horns honking.

One night at dinner, my partner and I were discussing the variety of ways Sri Lankans use their horns. The next day, I started compiling a list. Here is the list of my observations.

Go faster
Go slower
Me first
You first
I am overtaking you
I can’t overtake you because I am a bus full of people and can’t speed up so please slow down so I can overtake you
Move out of the way
Get off the road
I am bigger than you
I am smaller than you
I am coming up in your blind spot
I am on your left
I am on your right
I am behind you
I am in front of you
Move (insert object) usually person, dog, cart, cow, bus, car, tuk tuk, bicycle, scooter…
Look a tourist
Move tourist

Hey tourist
Turn around tourist
Tourist you want tuk tuk?
Are you sure you don’t want a tuk tuk?
No reason at all honking (on an empty street)
Hey friend
Hey stranger
I am blocking an entire intersection and I do not care
Get out of the intersection you idiot
I’m stopping right here
Train coming
Train not coming
Anyone around the corner?
I’m coming round the corner so you better stop
Move over further so I can pass you as this road isn’t big enough for both of us

I am sure here there are a myriad of other reasons for their horn honking that I will never fully understand, but it does slowly become the familiar background noise of the cityscape, and it only diminishes slightly in the villages. I have started to wonder if horns wear out and need replacing just like brake pads? Feel free to let me know.


#rocketandramble @rocketandramble


2 thoughts on “The underutilisation of the humble car horn

  1. Pingback: The Sri Lanka Series: Unawatuna (July-August 2015) | rocketandramble

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