I grew up in a middle class family in Detroit. Being the third child of a large family, and the first girl, I was not too proud to drive the beat up old red Ford Pinto that was handed down to me. Besides, it matched the Pinto watch with the moving bucking bronco that I won at the Auto Show. This was in the late seventies, before undercoating, and my first car was a real rust bucket. How rusty was it? It was so rusty that the front turn signal was held up by nothing but a thin strip of corroded metal. The tires were nearly bald, having lost most of their material from my brothers burning rubber and laying down tire patches. The car worked, but the horn did not. I’m not sure what my brothers did to wreck that. But I know what they did to fix it. The cover of the center of the steering wheel was missing and the wiring was exposed. A paper clip looked strangely out of place wound around some electrical contact. The plan was that you simply had to move the paper clip until it touched the other electrical contact whenever you wanted to honk. That plan worked most of the time. However, I’m sure the automotive designers were well aware that at least occasionally when you wanted to honk, you were not just trying to tell someone off, or signaling your girlfriend that you were tired of waiting for her to finish her make-up, but were actually in a situation where you needed to get someone’s attention quickly.
One fine winter day when I was driving in my neighborhood, staying in the ruts in the street because the streets were never plowed and the snow was at least a foot deep, I stopped behind a semi-truck waiting at the intersection of Evergreen and Puritan. the Pinto was a very small car, and being very large, the truck had no idea that a tiny vehicle carrying an inexperienced young girl was lurking beind it. For some reason, the truck driver decided to back up. I knew my options were limited, being literally stuck in a rut, but I was sure if I just honked, the truck would stop advancing toward me menacingly. So, I initiated the honking procedure. But the truck was getting very close now, and the young girl was getting very panicky, and her hands were getting quite shaky. Just as the huge truck bumper was looming large in my windshield, the paper clip made contact and the horn sounded. The truck stopped. I and my rusty, red Pinto were free to drive another day. Thirty some odd years later, I’m back driving a tiny, but shiny, new Ford Fiesta!