Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I Don't Think It's The Honking That's The Problem

April 7, 2008, was the first no-honking day in Mumbai (that's in India). Correct. The police had come up with this "No Honk" campaign because they felt that the congested capital deserved to have some peace and quiet for once. See, there are 18 million people in Mumbai and Mumbai is approximately the size of your guest bathroom. When you have 18 million people and 1.5 million cars and 1 guest bathroom, as you can imagine, there's a lot of honking. (That's also an average of 12 people per car. That's like all of the Bradys, Alice, Sam, Cousin Oliver, and Vincent Price, all crammed into a Mini Cooper. Nice. Packing your bags for India yet?)

They do have "no honking zones", but no one cares. They just keep honking. Or maybe it's not that no one cares, but that they don't know that the signs that designate "no honking" really do designate "no honking". Look at the sign on the right here. OK, that seems to say "No trumpeting." And if that is actually what the sign is for, then it's very effective, as none of the pictures that I've seen of traffic in Mumbai have any trumpeter in them at all. Yes, very effective if they're eradticating brass wind instruments from the city. And (not surprisingly) highly ineffective if they're trying to get people not to honk.

And apparently, these aren't the horns that we're used to. We're used to the ones that go "BEEP!" and are usually accompanied along with a poignant display of ones middle finger (known to some as the 3d ). It's very satisfying (especially when comparing it to just having been cut off by that moron on his cell phone.). But the horns in Mumbai are extremely loud and sometimes are more than just "BEEP". Yeah, sometimes, they're little tunes. Loud, honking-ish tunes, like "Battle Hymn of the Republic" or "The 1812 Overture". (Sweet fancy Moses, could you freaking imagine?) And the drivers over there seem to LOVE their horns SO much that they just honk them for no reason. Yep, some do it just to honk. Of course, a lot of the time there IS a reason for them to be honking. It doesn't do any good, but there's a reason. Look at this mess:

New Delhi TrafficI'm thinking, that if they'd like people to pipe down over there for a while, they might try something like, oh, I don't know, some lines on the road? Or perhaps a bike lane. A motorcycle lane? ANY lanes would be a start! Why would you even bother driving in conditions like that? Why not just find a nice apartment that's within walking distance of your outsourced US customer service call center job and not drive at all? Why put yourself through THAT every day? I'm really surprised that horn honking is the problem. Looking at that picture, I'm surprised that guns aren't the problem and that all of the noise isn't coming from drivers who are shooting themselves to be put out of their misery. Screw the horn, give me that hand gun and make sure it's loaded!

No Honking

And if the sign over on the left here is any indication of what the rest of their "no honking" signs are like, I might have another thought as to why they have this problem. "Hump Ahead"? You know, some people would read that and get so excited that a "Hump Ahead" was in store for them, they'd start honking out of pure anticipation! (And not just in India, either!)

Now, the police have acknowledged that this was not the best way to start their campaign for silence, but they say that they're going to keep trying. (Keep trying what?! Saying "Ssshhh!"?? That won't work!) But they have to keep trying because the traffic is not only incredibly loud and, therefore, can damage people's hearing, it also creates a stressful environment (do you think?) and raises people's stress levels, which raises their blood pressure, which weakens their hearts, which leads to heart disease which leads to death. (Actually, a few dead drivers over there wouldn't be such a bad thing, would it? Think of it as that many less honkers.)

It is a wonder more people from India aren't crazy. Oh, sure, like everywhere else, I'm sure that there's plenty. But having to listen to that every day? Having to drive in that every day? You'd think that we'd be hearing every other day about "Customer Service Representative Steve" taking out a handfuls of co-workers in the parking lot. But we don't. I wonder why that is. Well, whatever the reason is, I'm not going to Mumbai to find out. I don't need to know that badly.

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