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Look at me!

It all starts with that little bell on your tricycle. Nobody ever got run over by a tricycle. It is not really a warning device, but rather an announcement of your coming. Jing! Jing! Here I come! As you got older you graduated to a two-wheeler, but you still went Jing!, unless you had one of those deluxe models that had a horn. Then you went Blaaah.Some of us went in for the roar of the motorcycle, sort of, by attaching a card to the wheel so the spokes would stroke it. It did not so much sound like a motorcycle as like a push mower, but at least it was pretty loud. Clakkity, clakkity — it made people’s heads turn. We thought they were thinking, “Here comes the cool guy.” Really they were thinking, “Hey! You’ve got a card stuck in your spokes!”As we got older, there was a split. Boys tended to go for motorcycles or loud car engines. The best were Cutouts, a way for an auto engine to exhaust without going through the muffler. You got the full blast of the explosions in the cylinders. What we thought was impressive was really just annoying. Some of the horns were now functional, and then there were those that played “La Cucaracha,” or went “Ah-OOO-gah!”u u uEventually horns became our outside voice. You could tell by the length and frequency of the blast if it was a polite request to move, a demand, or a complaint. I had an Oldsmobile in the 1970s that could make people jump out of their socks. Trucks have extra loud horns because they know they will never be able to stop in time. I guess it was too much. Auto makers tried to tone most of us down with horns that you are embarrassed to sound. Mine sort of goes meeep, meeep. Pathetic. The deer don’t freeze in their tracks anymore. Now they fall down laughing. I guess that works.Most of us got over it. We moved on to quiet vehicles, happy to melt into the crowd and not attract the attention of the constabulary. There were a few who took the next step: a theme song. The Green Hornet, Lone Ranger, Batman and others of their ilk announced their arrival with dramatic music. They never seemed to catch on that this was a dead giveaway when sneaking up on evildoers. Sometimes police sirens perform similarly.Finally the ultimate step, taken only by a chosen few, who vie for the ultimate, knocking one another off the pinnacle of Look At Me Mountain. There can only be one of these at a time. It’s an actual law.They’re playing “Hail To The Chief” again. Bill Abrams resides in, and sometimes toots his own horn from, Pine Plains.

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