Recently a "friend" dredged up a memory I had long suppressed: driving my old beater down the road with the horn stuck blaring, at a volume only an old American car can produce. Because it wasn't bad enough I was not especially cool in high school, I also had to drive my elderly aunt's old-vomited-spinach-colored car. A car she could not have been saddened to part with. A car that was only 4 years younger than I. By the way, when you're in high school, a car that's 4 years younger than you is not vintage enough to be awesome, by any standard. And though I don't remember much from the era when this car was new, I'm still fairly sure Old Vomited Spinach was not a cool color then, either. Probably not even in Europe.
As my friend chuckled during the retelling, that terrible moment unfolded in my mind’s eye: my not-yet-classic announcing to all that, indeed, The Uncool One had arrived. Mile after mile. Stoplight after stoplight. How could my house have gotten so very far away?
When your horn is stuck, everyone around you first reacts with annoyance, usually followed by aggression. If you're lucky, the other drivers look directly into your mortified face and realize you have no choice in this matter, so they don't run you off the road. Then the ridicule pours down like a cold, November rain.
"Come on, how bad can it be?" you ask.
Steve Martin fans might remember a scene from The Jerk in which another uncool protagonist drives away from a sniper attack on a gas station. He climbs behind the wheel of an old beater with no tires, making his slow-motion escape grinding down the road on the wheel rims. Whatever speed I may have actually reached, driving while my horn was stuck, it felt exactly like that painfully slow getaway. The Jerk's car, adding insult to injury, was also my first: a Dodge Dart Swinger. A car that will live in infamy.