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Free the stigma; honk your car horn

| Monday, October 9, 2017

In a particularly memorable episode of Disney’s “Phineas and Ferb,” the title characters sing a pop-rock tune to commemorate aglets. Don’t know what an aglet is? I didn’t either, until Phineas and Ferb informed my 12-year-old self that it is the small plastic tube fitted around the end of a shoelace that keeps the shoelace from fraying.

“A-G-L-E-T (Don’t forget it) / We’re gonna tie the world together,” they sang.

I think most of us college-aged adults would agree that “Phineas and Ferb” was a pretty phenomenal show during our lower and middle school careers. I saw a large portion of the episodes, but this one, the one about something as simple as an aglet, stuck with me.

An aglet is a smart and useful invention that we don’t know much about, Phineas and Ferb told us, and it deserves to be praised.

I was reminded of this episode yesterday on a car ride from Milwaukee to campus when one of my car mates told us she rarely honks her horn, and that since she had gotten her new car, she couldn’t recall having used it one time. I was slightly appalled. I’m from Kansas, where car honking does not occur as much as in say, New York City, but I have serious respect for the car horn, and I don’t understand the resistance against using it.

The car horn deserves praise, even more so than the aglet, so here’s a bit more information about it.

Miller Reese Hutchison patented a car horn, also known as a klaxon, in 1908 because he was concerned about the increase in traffic in New York City. The name klaxon comes from the Greek word “klazo,” to scream. A common quip of the time, however, was that Hutchison created the klaxon to deafen people so that they would have to buy his other invention, hearing aids.

The klaxon is the voice of your car. Just as you might scream in the face of danger, let your car scream on the road to an accident. It’s there for our protection. It’s there to alert others of incoming danger. It’s there, right in the middle of the steering wheel, to be used.

I know. Road rage is on the rise and occasionally ticked-off drivers slam their horn without end in a not-so passive aggressive statement. It’s not fun being the recipient of that blast. But I’d rather someone alert me of my mistake with a roar than do nothing. For if they do nothing, I might not realize I’ve done anything wrong.

We don’t get a lot of opportunities to drive while school is in session, but as fall break nears, please cozy up to your car horn. If the car in front of you at the light doesn’t move when it turns green, give ’em a little nudge with a short beep and friendly wave. If someone cuts you off and endangers you, give ’em a hard blast and let them know.

Let’s break the stigma against using your car horn. Unfortunately, I don’t have a catchy tune about the klaxon to sing to you all, but I do have a proposition: If we all start using our car horns more frequently, we’’l be more likely to feel comfortable using them when we need to the most.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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