The Car Alarm Voodoo Formula

Last night around 6 p.m. a car alarm started going off somewhere in the cluster of apartment buildings where I live. It is 2:37 a.m. as I begin to write this.

(My bad language is due to frustration and is in no way my mother’s fault. She didn’t succeed in raising me better than that, but Lord knows she tried.)

First: Car alarms are obnoxious. Decibels can be dangerous. They intrude upon the right of the rest of us to live our lives peacefully. They disturb our concentration and our sleep and interrupt our conversations and other enjoyments. They damage our physical health, causing high blood pressure, increased cortisol production, sleep deprivation, hearing loss, and anxiety. They cost money in lost efficiency and production. They pollute our physical and spiritual environments.

If you have an obnoxious car alarm, you apparently value your personal possessions more than you value the well-being of other people. You do not care that only about 1% of alarms are set off by an actual criminal. 95-99% of the time, your alarm will be set off by a cat or thunder or the thumping bass in the stereo of the passing car owned by another self-centered cretin.  The cat and the thunder are exempt from blame. You and the pounding bass driver are both assholes.

Second: Car alarms don’t achieve their ostensible purpose. When I hear a car alarm go off, I do not rush out to stop a car thief or burglar, and neither does anyone else. I’m not stupid enough to interfere with a criminal, someone whose moral code will likely not stop at physically assaulting those who get in the way. There is data that indicates car alarms actually help thieves. They set them off intentionally, knowing no one will pay the slightest bit of attention because we are sick and tired of other people’s false alarms and we don’t fucking care anymore, enabling the thieves to shatter your windows without being heard over the racket and help themselves to whatever’s in your car.

When I hear the alarm, I begin collecting data to complete the following mathematical formula, which will determine how much you should be fined and whether or not I’m going voodoo on your ass.
Voodoo is in my skill set.

voodoo pins
Photo by Halloween, used under CC Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

The formula :*

                           { [dB = 10log(I/I0)] [R] [1.1^POS] [T] } / S

where I=decibel level, R=(0,10], POS=(0,10], [T]=(0,∞) in minutes, and S=(0,∞)

“dB” is the decibel variable.** If the volume is ear-splitting enough to be heard a mile away, this factor will be large.  Keep in mind that decibels are logarithmic, like the Richter scale; a 120-dB alarm is 4 times louder than a jackhammer or your 100-dB margarita blender. Your alarm is damaging other people’s heads.

“R” is the Rudeness variable, the tone of the sound. WHOOP-WHOOP-WHOOP-WHOOP or the incessant horn honking are maximum level offenses for me, although this factor is subjective.

The alarm I’m listening to right now is a chirping sound that is almost polite, like an Edwardian lady saying “I beg your pardon, I’m being violated”…”I beg your pardon,  I’m being violated”…”I beg your pardon, I’m being violated” – over and over and over and over and fucking over, for more than eight goddamn hours now. It’s not ruining my hearing but it’s still driving me batshit. Even though I closed my window and turned a fan on full blast, I can still hear it. It’s a pleasantly cool night after a warm day and I would like my window open. You’re a dickhead.

It may be a somewhat less murderous noise than a prison-break klaxon, but you, alarm-owning jerk, have still fucked up my entire evening and night. And I still don’t give a shit if anyone has broken into your car. I hope your most prized and deeply sentimental possessions were taken. I actively wish the whole damned car had been stolen.

“POS” is the Piece of Shit factor. It’s bad enough if you are willing to subject everyone nearby to an assault louder than a 1979 Ted Nugent concert in order to “protect” your brand-new Lexus. This factor is exponentially higher if the car in question is a bashed-up 2003 Honda that is filled with dirty gym towels and smells like the ghost of Taco Bell.

“T” is Time. For how long have I been subjected to this satanic clamor? This also accounts for whether (1) you, the alarm owner, actually got off your ass and put on pants and came out and turned the goddamned thing off; (2) you, the alarm owner, were out of town and the neighborhood was forced to endure this brutalization until your battery ran down; or (3) I vacated the area. On this morning, for example, I had to leave home very early, but that’s serendipity, not mitigation. You don’t get a break because the Tominator had to be at the airport at zero-dark-thirty and we had to allow extra time because the Alaskan Way Viaduct is closed for construction and traffic on I-5 is more hellish than usual. We had to put up with all that and airport parking too, with no sleep, and that’s on you. Yes, the Tominator can sleep on the plane, but after that he has to put up with Los Angeles. I have to work. You’re a dick.

Now to “S” – we divide by the Satisfaction factor. Remember, you can’t divide by zero, even in my math world, and this equation can never produce a result of zero.  If you have a nasty car alarm and it goes off for even a microsecond, you have assaulted other people and deserve payback. Things that produce a Satisfaction quantity are also subjective: Did somebody else get pissed enough to slash your tires?  Are the cops here? Tow truck? Awesome.

The equation computed with all values inputted*** determines the OOQ, or Overall Obnoxiousness Quotient, which in turn determines what weapon will be used when we finally commence counterassault. This runs the gamut from making noise complaints to the landlord and the police, to leaving nasty notes on your windshield and egging your paint job, to destroying your vehicle using implements ranging from Louisville Sluggers to guns, which should be good for something besides mowing down elementary school children in their classrooms.****

A Louisville Slugger is also in my skill set.*****


Daniel Ramirez, Flickr/CC 2.0 Generic License.

I’m not saying you don’t have the right to protect your property. Of course you do. But the rest of us have the right to be protected from you protecting your property. Get an alarm that sends a notification to your cell phone and doesn’t disturb anyone except you. Slightly less desirable but still an improvement is  one that activates a sound on your key fob. If you forget your keys somewhere and they are driving the rest of us crazy, we can at least drop them down a storm drain.

It’s called civility. We’re supposed to be civilized. Oh, and those obnoxious honks when people lock and unlock their cars? Really? How did the rest of us ever figure out we’d locked or unlocked our cars without announcing it to the whole block right after the exhausted new mom finally got her colicky baby to sleep? But that’s another rant for another day.


*I am not a professional mathematician, and I don’t play one on TV. But I did earn an A in calculus recently enough to remember roughly 12% of it.

**I don’t have a meter to measure for an accurate decibel level, and I’m not buying one.

***Sounds weird, huh? I looked it up. It’s a real word.

****Don’t go all Second Amendment on me. I own guns. I am not anti-gun; I am pro-intelligence. It’s pretty freaking obvious that nobody should be using guns to mow down elementary school children in their classrooms. Using them on car alarms seems legit though.

*****OK, I’ve never actually used voodoo against anyone or taken a baseball bat to a windshield. But I know how. Don’t tempt me.



Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

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