February 13, 2009

First Person:

Dangling Culture From The Rear View Mirror

By Al Carlos Hernandez


Many drivers feel compelled to hang eclectic things from their rear view mirrors. This, I think, is a personal statement of identity like a signature or family crest. They painstakingly choose to hang a little symbol that makes the mass produced, faceless production vehicle an expression of self.

I think that, since we spend so much time in our cars nowadays, we like to make our ranflas a little home away from home. Those of us who have lived with emotionally volatile Latinas are acutely aware of the fact that an ill termed phrase, or an impromptu weeknight out with the boys, and the car can easily become your home for an evening or two.

Back in the day (and several years before my time), it was vogue to hang fuzzy dice from your rear view mirror. This supposedly indicated that you considered yourself a wild, rebellious, playboy, gambler and wanted everyone to know it. We now call that type of behavior “fronting.” I had an uncle who was a fuzzy dice aficionado. My dad wasn’t much for it because occasionally we didn’t have a car. But we did have a tremendous sense of humor and considered carrying a portable set for a bus driver’s temporary use.

My mom’s chronic and customarily broke cousin couldn’t afford “store bought” fuzzy dice. He crafted his own pair out of wood. At an intersection close to the house he was knocked out cold after slamming on his brakes. Knocking himself silly, he was arrested for drunk driving while unconscious. The charges were later dismissed when they realized that he wasn’t drunk, just really stupid, and there is still no law against driving stupid. That is why politicians, famous actors, pop stars, and other maliciously ambivalent people hire normal folks to drive them around.

  I notice that some Latinos like to hang small flags of their country from the often times super sized rear view mirrors. They seem to have an obsessive concern about who is following them. There are a disproportionate amount of Nicaragua flags, some Salvadorians, and a few Puerto Rico ones. Mexicans seem to favor rude yet justified anti-migra stickers to demonstrate motherland affiliation.

I have no problem with familia flying their colors; I considered tossing up the Oakland Raider Nation ones myself.

Flying a flag of another country might be redundant if the car you are driving has home made tinted windows, rides too high or too low, or if there are nineteen people in a two door blasting Banda music or a Calle 13 CD.

I don’t like anything hanging from anywhere. I consider it a distraction, and my attention span is already too short as it is. What if I had a crystal prism hanging there and it accidentally hypnotized me into becoming a radio talk show host or something? Studies indicate that the smarter you are, the more likely driving will bore you to sleep behind the wheel. I have never had that problem.

Some people hang things that unknowingly bait cops into pulling them over and shaking them down. Like mota air fresheners. Doesn’t it occur to Cheech and Chong motorists that if they didn’t get baked in the car they wouldn’t need a freshener in the first place?

I’ve seen everything from garters, puka shells, rosaries, baby shoes, head bands, backstage passes; astro signs, and all kinds of whack job bangles that dangle. This proves one thing. I’m not paying attention to my driving, and it could be boring for me after all.

It is difficult for me to understand why people choose to fly the flag of a mother country. People should care less about where you are from and more about who you are. As if flying a flag gives you a certain status. Is does: immigrant. I have known second and third generation Latinos who display Mexican and Central American flags. They have never been to the country or even speak the language. This is especially true for folks who floss the African flag.

The truth is no one cares where you are from. The flag just gives them a clue as what insult to scream when they are telling you where you should go back to. Drivers are only concerned about your ability to drive without getting in their way, player hating if your car is nicer than theirs, if you have an attractive passenger, or if you happen to be a babe yourself.

I have never seen a rear view mirror flag of Canada. Maybe that is why those illegales are so hard to catch.

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