Saturday, November 7, 2020

Still Life with Robin: Honk If You Hate Honking

by Peggy Robin

As I was driving along Connecticut Avenue today, I passed by several large batches of people celebrating the election results -- just as called for in the two event announcements posted on the listserv yesterday (see message  and ): by gathering at the corners of the nearest state-named street – in this case, Connecticut Avenue. In Cleveland Park the party was at Connecticut and Porter, and about a half mile to the north, at Connecticut and Van Ness. People were singing, dancing, waving signs and DC and US flags – and here’s the part that got my attention – asking drivers to honk their horns in support. 

As you can imagine, in a jurisdiction where Biden got 93 percent of the vote and Trump barely got over 5 percent, that meant a whole lot of horn honking. It sounded like this:  
(22 seconds)  

I was stuck at the light at Van Ness for probably less than a minute – and about 30 seconds in, I was pretty well sick of the noise. And I couldn’t help but think of all the parents of irritable, wakeful toddlers that were missing a nap because of this. Or healthcare workers on the night shift who need to sleep during the day. Or people with PTSD, who have trouble with loud noises..

Don’t get me wrong. I’m feeling celebratory myself today. I’m just not pro-honking as a way to express it.

That got me to thinking: What if there were another way for passing drivers to show their approval?

What if you could buy a portable signboard that you could slap onto the roof of your car with magnets, which would display a short message in bright red LED lights? There could be some standard things already programmed in:

Go TEAM!!! (This could be used any time your favorite team is in the World Series or some other sporting event)

This would work for some other milestones, too:
For newlyweds, the rooftop display board  could replace the JUST MARRIED sign and tin-cans tied to the rear of the car.
CONGRATS, CLASS of 2021!  

Then you could have a few driving notes, such as: 

The signboard could light up with any short message that you programmed in. This could be done via an app on your smartphone. You just type in what you want to say. Once you have a standard bank of road etiquette phrases accessible, you could call up a message with the push of a single button, without taking your eyes off the road. (Of course, it will be illegal to type in any new phrases while driving - just as texting while driving is illegal.)  

When not expressing your personal greetings or driving notes, the signboard could remain blank -- or it could could revert to a message that is applicable all the time -- perhaps: “DRIVE GENTLY” or THANKS FOR NOT SPEEDING!  

I can see this as one of those gadgets that gets hawked in TV commercials, like WeatherTech Floor Liners or that cellphone holder that sits in your car's cupholder.  

It shouldn’t be very expensive, either. 

If someone built a startup around this idea, and ran up a prototype, they could probably have investors on board and the whole enterprise would be up and running before the mid-terms! If you think this could be you, I say GO FOR IT! And don’t worry that I will accuse you of stealing my idea. I have no claims on this one. It would be enough for me to know that cars were lighting up to express the driver’s enthusiasm, joy, celebration ...and put an end to all that damn honking!

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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