Sunday, April 1


I just finished reading River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler. Hessler was a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in Fuling, a town on the Yangtze river. I identify with a lot in the book, but I'm jealous about how much time he was able to spend learning and practicing the language. Anyway, this section is one I particularly relate to:

Most of the sound came from car horns, and it is difficult to explain how constant this sound was. I can start by saying: Drivers in Fuling honked a lot. ...they were always passing each other in a mad rush to get to wherever they were going. They honked at other cars, and they honked at pedestrians. They honked whenever they passed somebody, or whenever they were being passed themselves. They honked when nobody was passing but somebody might be considering it, or when the road was empty and there was nobody to pass but the thought of passing or being passed had just passed through the driver's mind. Just like that, an unthinking reflex: the driver honked. They did it so often that they didn't even feel the contact point beneath their fingers, and the other drivers and pedestrians were so familiar with the sound that they essentially didn't hear it. Nobody reacted to horns anymore; they served no purpose. A honk in Fuling was like a tree falling in the forest- for all intents and purposes it was silent.
The sounds of car horns in our city still annoy me. There are quite a few cabs here, and they're always honking. I think they honk more at foreigners, but I could be wrong. If I hear one honk at me as he approaches, I ignore it and wave down the next one if possible. I try not to reward their honking unless I'm in a hurry or there are no other cabs in sight.


Elaine said...

Wow, that constant noise would drive me bonkers too. Mexican cab drivers were very liberal with the horn - especially when they saw foreigners walking. Here in Chicago, I'm usually able to tune out the street sounds. When I'm working downtown I don't notice it until a siren makes me stop and listen. Its very noisy downtown all day long, but fortunately from the 14th floor I feel farther away from it. I'm just glad I live away from the traffic!

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irene said...

Hi Lela!

I've been reading your blog more lately! I recently went to NYC and stayed w/B.Baker and his wife. It was so fun and I got to experience honking! Just "hey-I'm here" honking. Not like ")(*&)^%" honking like we have in TX. Hi Elaine!!!

(no, i don't have a blog yet, i just signed up so i could read everyone elses. but i have been encouraged by this someone to start one, you should BOTH check her blog out:
Does she look familiar?)