Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Honking Horn

I once owned a 1995 Buick Le Sabre; 4 doors; leather seats; tape player; automatic windows; and a Dino Ride system that I never understood what it was- but it had one; fuel injection v-6 engine.  It gave me a smooth ride.  I loved that car, not because of all the equipment and mysterious systems, but because it was our family car- a car we could count on to get us from point A to point B safely; a car we trusted at night on a lonely road when the kids were sleeping in the back seat; a car that could travel safely in snow and ice and rain and sleet; a car that never failed us on family vacations.  We always arrived back home.

And then, it got old.  And the check engine light came on and no mechanic on the face of the earth could prevent it from glowing.  The engine actually quit running as I sped around the Raleigh beltway in rush hour traffic and I had to coast across four lanes of traffic in order to pull off the highway with no power steering.  But, I still loved it.  And I still pampered it...until the horn went berserk.

I was driving from work one afternoon and pulled up to a stoplight at an intersection.  Pedestrians were crossing the street in front of me when my horn blew at them.  They jumped, startled, and said some very unkind things to me.  I thought that I had accidentally bumped the horn and tried to apologize but they would not accept it.

A few miles further I was following a car when the horn began to beep again.  I could see the driver in the car in front of me looking in his rear view mirror.  So, I turned right at the next intersection, trying to figure out what was going on.

A few days passed without incident when I switched cars with Melanie so that I could travel out of town, since I no longer trusted the Buick for long distance travel.  I don't remember if I told Melanie about the horn problem (I probably didn't), but I should have.

She was driving home in rush hour traffic on Central Avenue when the Buick's horn began beeping.  People around her looked at her with hostile eyes.  As the beeping continued people began to give her the one finger salute while mouthing a few choice words to her.

Now, you should know that my wife is what some people call a "peacemaker".  She does not like conflict, especially conflict with strangers, and will go to great lengths to avoid such conflict.  But on this day, there was nothing she could do.  The Buick had a mind of its own and the horn continued to honk.

Finally, the only thing she could think of doing was to turn off this busy street into the nearest vacant parking lot- which happened to be the parking lot of a day care center- with children playing on the playground.  Melanie is not only a peacemaker, but she is also a teacher who has spent her entire life giving encouragement and love to children.  The horn had now elevated in its honking to one loud, long, never ending beeeeeeeeeeeep.  The children on the playground clutched their hands to their ears; some fell on the ground crying for their Mothers.  The daycare workers turned and stared angrily at Melanie, wondering why she was being so rude.  Melanie ran to the fence and explained her predicament and one of the teachers, who knew about cars and fuses, came to her rescue.  She pulled the fuse to the car horn and it stopped making its dreadful, child deafening, insulting, ear splitting noise.

For Melanie, this was a traumatic experience.  Through a set of circumstances over which she had no control, she incurred the wrath of people she encountered including some innocent children.  Too often, we are quick to judge someone whose set of circumstances are beyond their control.  We see a person who appears to us to be acting in a strange way or in a way we would never act (or so we think).  But one day, we may be driving along life's highway and our horn may begin to blow.  And then, we will understand.

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