Monday, December 7

Gear: Delta Airzound bicycle horn

I have not heard much pleasant said about Vietnam's traffic patterns and driving. However, I can't say much for the drivers around here in the United States, either. Several times, I've been very nearly hit by people that were talking on their cell phones and drinking a coffee with one hand while eating a slice of pizza and beating their children in the back seat with the other. People just aren't looking at what they are doing. That's the primary problem with cars. They are little rooms that people hang out in. And with vehicle safety the way it is these days, as long as you're wearing a seatbelt, you're pretty much going to walk away from any traffic accident with only scratches. There isn't much incentive to know what's going on outside your little world. And anyway, bicycles and the people on them are just an impediment to the soccer practice or rabid consumerism or wherever it is you are driving your minivan full of brats.

Enter the Delta Airzound bike horn. As much as I loved my old Honka-Hoota, it was purely for amusement purposes--it did not have the stopping power of nearly 120 decibels. If you have ever stood on the end of the runway as a jumbo jet took off, that is what 120 decibels sounds like. I have used this horn to success on my bicycle many times. People insistently merge in to me, or try to cut me off, or are just generally unaware of what is going on outside of their cockpit. A simple blast from the Airzound informs them, WRONG!, like the buzzing of a gameshow's incorrect answer. It's louder than a car's horn and much more shrill. It gives me pleasure (and a small amount of guilt, but mostly pleasure) to see someone jerk their steering wheel to the side, with a "holy crap!" of bestartlement as they are awoken from their daze by the shrill blast of aural justice. The speed limit is 15 dude. This lane is mine. I am passing you. Get over it.

Anyway, here's how it works. There's a bottle of compressed air which attaches via a tube to the handlebar-mounted horn. I have my bottle in a third, under-the-down tube cage, but it comes with a velcro thing so you can strap it on wherever without having to use up a bottle cage. The air is compressed, so you press a button on the handlebar part and it unleashes 120dB of bicycle justice, as long as there is air in the bottle. There's also a little volume knob, if 120 is 'too much justice' but I always keep it on full blast. Once the air runs out, you can refill it using any bike pump. I keep forgetting the 'maximum recommended pressure' to refill it but I keep upping whatever number I thought it was last time by five or ten "just to be sure." Anyway, the higher the pressure, the louder the horn, so bring it on.

Anyway, having a good bicycle horn is, I believe, going to be pretty key in Vietnam. The usage of the horn is going to be completely different. Here, I wait until something bad is about to happen to use it, or I use it for your typical American 'revenge honk', as to dutifully inform the traffical offender that they are an asshole. If Hanoi is anything like Santo Domingo, then they proper horn usage will be a fairly constant strobing effect. Just fire it off as you dive in to an intersection, because you know no one is looking. The horn's meaning is "I am coming through, and I'm not stopping." This falls in line with the food chain. The right-of-way is ordered directly by total weight. Pedestrians yield to bicycles yield to motorbikes yield to cars yield to buses yield to trucks yield to tanks yield to American B-52's. (What, too soon?) This is contrasted to in the United States, where I self-righteously claim the full extent of my equal right to the road.

Well, we'll see. It should be interesting. Getting used to the traffic patterns of Vietnam will be an experience, for sure. The least I can hope for is that my horn will be read as "I don't know what I am doing. Please don't kill me."

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