Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Car talk puzzlers

At the risk of co-opting all my material from the past weekend's New York Times, there was another interesting Sunday feature on the phenomenon of car window decals bearing memorial messages. It's a phenomenon that has its roots in Latino culture, which means the decals are a relatively common sight out here in the southwest. But the article notes the concept is transferring (not unlike a decal) to other segments of the populace.

In the 19 Minutes World Media Headquarters, it's just another aspect of the car culture that we don't completely understand. I can grasp why someone would want to commemorate the life of a loved one who has passed away, but I'm not altogether clear on why the back (or side) window of a car, or pickup, or SUV is the appropriate venue for such a tribute.

But there are many things about the vehicular world that are a little puzzling, several of which have made themselves apparent in just the last several days:

Vanity plates. I guess I can understand the philosophy behind personalized license plates. I was actually close to getting a vanity plate a few years ago, when a minor windfall from my three days on "Jeopardy!" allowed me to buy my first-ever new car. It was a German car, and I thought "Gefahr" (the German word for "Jeopardy") would be catchy, clever, and mysterious. But having my application returned for proof that "Gefahr" wasn't actually a swear word, I decided it would just be a puzzlement to other drivers. Likewise, the plate on the car I passed both on the way to and from the coffee shop the other day: "BIG GAL". An extra 50 bucks to put a vanity tag on your car seems like an extravagance for an inside joke that only 11 people will get.

Leis and rear-view mirrors. I'm not sure whether this is a phenomenon outside the west, but there's an abundance of Hawaiian leis hanging from the rear-view mirrors of northern Arizona. Besides making it difficult to see out of a substantial proportion of the windshield, I wonder about the function of these decorations. Is it an effort to create a little slice of Maui in the driver '89 Escort? (And if that's the case, does it work?) Are they left over from a luau? It seems unlikely the decorative touch will lead anyone to confuse Interstate 40 between Flagstaff and Kingman, Arizona with the road to Hana. Tough talk from a guy with Hawaiian print seat covers on his '87 Golf.

The Lexus as holiday gift. I'm sorry - do luxury car manufacturers really think those commercials that show a $40,000 car with a bright red bow on top will lead anyone to run out and buy their spouse, child, parent, or whoever a car for Christmas? Have we really gotten to the point that a $350 Xbox is the reasonably priced alternative for holiday giving? ("Yes", is probably the answer.) And are the car dealerships jammed on December 26th with people returning cars they don't like?

The more important question, though, is where do you get a bow that large?


Anonymous said...

You drop $40k on the Lexus, we'll throw in the bow for free

Anonymous said...

Allyson has actually promised to divorce me if I ever buy a motor vehicle without consulting her first. (Same with jewelry.)

Anonymous said...

By the way, it's me who posted that last comment, Mitch.

(Signed) William B. Yeats