Style Thwarting Function

It used to be that your car’s horn control was a 360 degree, or near 360 degree chrome-plated metal ring.  It didn’t take much time or effort to find it when you needed it.  My Ford pickup has two horn buttons– tiny rectangular surfaces in the wheel spokes that are stylistically flush-mounted, much like the controls on an iPod.  Just as the iPod looks cool but can’t be very well controlled by touch due to the carefully flush-mounted buttons, so too the horn buttons for my pickup are designed as if to challenge the driver’s muscle memory and pin-point precision in a desperate situation.

Driving home in the dark last night I noticed a car in front of me swerve into the on-coming lane.  “Idiot” I thought, “probably texting or something…WHOA!”  After driving this pickup for many years, I am now able to stab the horn button in about a tenth of a second.  I am proud of that fact.  It has taken all those years practicing with the same rig to learn to do it.  Of course I wore out one engine at around a quarter million miles, and am well into wearing out the second.  I figure that by the time most people learn to find the horn button in the dark in a panic, they’ve already trashed the vehicle and are on to the next one, having then to start all over with the process of learning to find the horn button in the dark in a panic.

There was a deer, hell bent on crossing the highway ten feet in front of me while I was doing 60 MPH.  Stupid animals.  I’ve found that the white-tailed deer responds very well to short horn blasts, at around 3 to 4 per second.  It mimics the universal alarm sound in the animal world.  A full sized pickup whooshing along at 60 MPH doesn’t give them pause, but that horn will send them into hysterics and they’ll stop whatever they’re doing.  You should have seen the look on that deer’s face.  It looked as though it had been lassoed and yanked backwards, eyeballs bugging out, which is much preferable to having it crawl through my radiator and into the front of my engine at 60 MPH.  Sometimes if the car in front of you swerves, there is a good reason.

My next thought was to look in the rear view mirror.  No traffic.  If I’d hit the deer, at least I could have had time to heave it into the pickup bed without encountering any traffic in my lane.  If you’re going to have your radiator destroyed, at least there could be some compensation in your freezer the following week.  And yes; I can drive without a radiator (or a water pump, or an accessory belt).  Can’t you?  You go until the engine temp red-lines, then you stop and wait for it to cool down.  Restart, repeat as necessary.  I’ve had to do that on two or three occasions, for different reasons.  Drag racers don’t have trivialities like a cooling system and they do just fine.

But enough with the flush-mounted controls, OK?  Engineers; can we agree it’s a dumb idea?

4 thoughts on “Style Thwarting Function

  1. The danger of course is that it would come through the windshield instead of the radiator.

    Whitetail deer kill more people every year than any other wild animal. Via suicide windshield attacks. Something like 100 to 120 people each year.

  2. They’d have to jump up quite a bit to get into my windshield. I’ve nailed two deer dead on. One in a ’66 Chrysler and the other with the Ford pickup. Both bounced off the grill, dead as a hammer. The Chrysler was undamaged. The Ford’s plastic grillwork was cracked and the radiator bent, but none the worse– that at only 50 MPH. I can see it would be a real problem in one of the newer, low hood cars. Motorcycle riders; look the hell out.

    Now a moose would be another matter for the pickup. Much taller. Came to within 10 feet of a large cow moose on the highway just outside Moscow once. Thought it was a horse at first. They’re so dark you don’t see them at night untill you’re right on top of them.

  3. You know what’s even worse? A horn with no button, just a soft spot near the top of the airbag. I’ve put over 100,000 miles on my car over the last 10 years or so, and I still have trouble finding the horn quickly when I need it! The only indication it’s even there is a little horn icon embossed into the vinyl, and it’s not centered, so it’s impossible to find in the dark or while actually keeping your eyes on the reason you need the horn in the first place.

    Stupid design, but it gives a nice clean look, so I guess it must be okay!

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