The Thing That Screams Wolf

What thief has ever been deterred by those unendurable car alarms? They're a crime in themselves.

They erupt like indignant metal jungle birds, and they whoop all night. They make American cities sound like lunatic rain forests, all the wildlife affrighted, violated, outraged, shrieking.

Like the hungry infant's cry, the car alarm is designed to be unignorable -- that is, unendurable. One popular model from Code-Alarm, for example, puts out 125 decibels: "Louder than a police siren," says a publicist, "louder than a rock concert." A good car alarm is a sharp blade of sound: it pierces sleep, it goes into the skull like an oyster knife. In a neighborhood of apartment buildings, one such beast rouses...

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