What do you think is the noisiest city in North America?
I traveled to New York from my home in Southern California this week. The second thing I noticed was the noise. Honking. I mean leaning on the horn, loud and long.
The first thing I noticed was that my taxi didn’t have a meter, though I specifically told the man who led me to a large black vehicle that I wanted a taxi. One 45 minute anxiety-producing ride and seventy-five dollars later, I realized I’d been scammed. The same ride cost my sister, who arrived a few hours earlier, $35.00. If it makes me seem less gullible, I’ll have you know I didn’t tip him.
But, I digress. I’ve never heard a harsh cacophony quite like the horn honking in Manhattan. I later read that New York is the noisiest city in North America and The New York Sun dubbed this car commotion “congestion honking” – this pounding on the steering wheel, blowing the horn, born of frustration with midtown gridlock. This honking is not preventative. It is not about safety or giving warning. It is not even a form of public scolding, which I think Californians have mastered.
At one point while on Broadway, I heard at least a dozen car drivers all lay on their horns in unison as if somehow if they just cooperated their horning could magically clear the massive traffic jam. This horrible orchestra of klaxons (I’ve been dying to use that word) caused me to realize that not all horns are created equal. Some cars certainly had a more robust honk than others. My ten year old Honda Element’s horn sounds almost friendly compared to some of the blasts I heard in New York.
I realize that the constant buzz of New York City is alluring to some but it drove me to seek places that were quiet and peaceful. My itinerary changed from wanting to see the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station and Times Square to strolling through Central Park, spending an afternoon at High Line (where I actually snapped a sweet photo of a tender proposal on bended knee), and visiting tree lined streets near 72nd and Strawberry Fields (a 2.5 acre landscaped memorial to Beatle John Lennon) where the gabled and fabled French style Dakota Apartments are located.
I came away loving New York and I think I have loud horn blowers to thank for it. Their need to make noise prompted me to seek beauty, peace and quiet. And I found it. As I rounded a bend in Central Park, I almost dropped to my knees with a wave of missing my daughter, Brittany. A year ago, I would’ve just collapsed in a heap. I’m stronger now so I stopped to drink in the view and take a photograph. “Brittany would’ve loved this,” I said to my sister, realizing that my daughter, a girl bitten with wanderlust, had set an example by finding beauty wherever she went in the world.
Thank you, baby girl. Love you always.