Rear View Hanging

Fuzzy dice, puka shells, flags and other forms of mobile identity

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: December 16, 2002

Rear View Hanging

Many drivers feel compelled to hang eclectic things from the rear view mirror as a personal statement of identity, like a signature or family crest. They painstakingly choose a little symbol to hang that make 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 that with 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 often we didn?t have a car, and didn?t want to carry a portable set of dice for the bus driver?s temporary use.

My Mom?s chronic and customarily broke cousin couldn?t afford store-bought fuzzy dice so he crafted his own pair out of wood, then was promptly knocked out cold at an intersection close to the house after slamming on his brakes, knocking himself silly, only to be 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 laws 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 in has home-made tinted windows, rides to high or too low, and if there are nineteen people in a two door blasting Banda music, or a Fulanito 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, astrological signs...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, when 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. I have known second and third generation Latinos who display Mexican and Central American flags who have never been to the country or even speak the language. This is especially true for folks who fly 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 and 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 illegal immigrants are hard to catch.

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos is a national columnist.

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