by E. Izawa
Most of us are familiar with car horns being used to express anger and annoyance. Beep! Beep! Get out of my way! What do you think you’re doing? Don’t cut me off! The light’s green, you idiot!
Near the end of April of 2006, I was riding on my usual bus, on my way from work to the San Francisco Caltrain station, and from there on my way home. Another long day at the office. As usual, I paid little heed to what was going on as the bus rolled through its route.
I hazily noticed the bus driver was honking. The bus was stopped at the curb. There was a car parked right in front of the bus, with a smartly dressed woman, probably the car’s driver, walking between the bus and the car toward the sidewalk. I thought she must have been on her way to a nearby restaurant for dinner.
“The car must be in the way or something,” I figured, though the car didn’t look illegally parked. So then I guessed it was just another impatient bus driver, and just another clueless car driver. I vaguely envied the fashionably dressed woman, as I wished I had enough time to stop for dinner in the city. I didn’t pay any more attention.
But the bus driver kept honking. And then, the woman moved suddenly, which caught my eye. She had returned to the driver’s side of her car; she was stooping down and picking something up from the pavement. She then straightened, holding what looked like a black jacket that she hadn’t been holding just moments before.
The woman grinned broadly and, as she walked by, lifted the jacket to the bus driver in thanks. The bus driver enthusiastically returned victorious hand signals before starting the bus rolling again (easily avoiding the parked car).
Clearly, he had been drawing her attention to the fallen jacket, which she must have dropped without noticing. I had missed whatever motions he made to convey his message, seeing only the before and the after. My assumptions had been all wrong — so much for assuming the worst! Perhaps she, too, had assumed he was some irate bus driver, only to realize he was a caring one.
I sat back and pondered. The horn, so commonly the cacophonous sound of ire and spite and rage, was for once a sound of helpfulness and kindness. It was the sound of one stranger helping another.
What if, I thought, we on Earth used more of our tools at our disposal — car horns, computers, pens, paint, or our very hands — to help others instead of whatever negative we commonly use them for? What a world this could be. Even the honking of horns would be the sweetest melody.