Car Alarm Ruins Otherwise Excellent Meal

I had dinner last Saturday with a couple of people at Enzo’s Cafe on Arthur Avenue after a day spent helping prepare the route for the New York City Century bicycle tour, which this year will be sending twice as many people to the Bronx as it has in the past.

To enjoy great outside air, we sat on the sidewalk. As one of us was in mid-sentence during our pre-dinner conversation, we were interrupted by a car alarm going off. Not your typical multi-phase symphony-of-cacophony car alarm that is programmed to stop after a certain amount of time, but just a steady HONK! HONK! HONK! HONK! accompanied by flashing headlines.

The offending SUV was a black Mitsubishi Montero-looking vehicle, double parked two doors down from our sidewalk cafe on the other side of the street. Whatever we were talking about faded away to a new conversation, louder now, about the alarm. We looked over and noticed this little fact:

There were four people in that SUV.

Perhaps in some kind of demented effort to silence the alarm, the SUV’s driver several times inched the vehicle backward a few feet of space, then rolled forward again toward a double-parked van in front of it. This had no effect on the alarm. In fact, the only thing that seemed to dampen the sound at all would be another car driving down the street: At the point that the moving car was in between us and the SUV, the sound would be momentarily, blissfully lower.

After many, many long minutes had passed, the barrage of sound stopped for a reason or reasons unknown. One of the four geniuses in the SUV had figured out how to stop it, or perhaps more likely, it had stopped itself.

We resumed civilized dining for a while. Some people sat down next to us and started looking at the menu. Then the SUV alarm started up again, for Act II of a play I like to call HONK! HONK! HONK! HONK! The adjacent table’s car alarm conversation merged into ours, as we wondered aloud about how people could not know how to control their own machine.

Finally the alarm stopped and the SUV drove off as our sidewalk cafe broke into spontaneous applause.

Nobody in the SUV seemed the slightest bit embarrassed about how they were annoying many scores of people walking on the busy sidewalk, dining, working in the neighborhood businesses or living in apartments above the street.

At no point did anyone take any action that would lead one to believe they thought the occupants of the car were stealing it. As far as I could tell, nobody called the police, and nobody approached the vehicle to see what was going on. People just did their very best to ignore the eight hundred pounds of sound.

It is amazing that in this day where silent Lojack has been proven to deter car theft more effectively than noisy alarms, and where Mayor Bloomberg recently launched a war on unnecessary noise, our society allows its public spaces to be wrecked by these intrusive sounds.

  • mike

    Another reason to completely ban audible car alarms.

  • protection of the motor vehicle owner’s private space and private property is placed above all else. walking up to the car and asking these guys to turn off their noise — or even asking if you could help them figure out how to do it — might have been grounds for a shooting.

  • AD

    That’s probably why nobody considered it. Sort of the opposite reaction a car alarm is supposed to have, right?

  • ddartley

    A serious suggestion: we should contact car manufacturers and tell them to advertise loudly and proudly, “we do NOT install useless and destructive car alarms!”

  • neil d

    We bought our car used, and I would *love* to disable the car alarm, but there appears to be no way to do so short of diving under the hood with wire cutters. Mostly it seems to serve to tell us useful information like “Ha ha, you tried to put something in the trunk after leaving the doors closed for several seconds! I will now honk repeatedly to punish you for pushing buttons in the wrong order!”

    Like SUVs themselves, I suspect car alarms are installed mostly because they confer the sense of safety, rather than actual safety. As for me, I would definitely pay extra for a car with no alarm – or at the very least, one that I can turn off.

  • podsednik

    “there appears to be no way to do so short of diving under the hood with wire cutters”

    Perfect! So what’s the problem?

  • Everywhere I look in New York City, there are signs that say “NO HONKING $350 FINE.” Of course, one wouldn’t know it based on the number of car alarms and honking horns one hears every day.

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