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Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Wednesday, August 16, 2000

Car owners
advertise hangups

I'VE been making an inventory of things people hang from the rear view mirrors of their cars. So far, the weirdest thing I've seen is a string of teeth. I don't know where the teeth came from. Maybe they were the baby teeth of the car-owners' children and hanging them in the car was Mom and Dad's way of saying, "Our babies are growing up so fast, but we love them to pieces."

But some of the teeth looked pretty big, like adult teeth. So, maybe it was some sort of talisman or amulet to ward of potential car thieves, something a little less subtle than "The Club." ("Break into this car, buddy, and parts of your face become interior decoration.")

Most of the stuff people hang from their rearview mirrors is run-of-the-mill, items like shell lei, high school graduation tassels, Hawaiian gourd helmets, dried ti leaf lei (actually lei of everything except double carnation are plentiful) and American Indian "dream catchers," which look like tiny tennis rackets without the handles.

It's easy to become obsessed with checking out what kind of bizarre stuff people feel compelled to hang in their cars. And that can be dangerous because when you go around squinting into people's cars, they think you are casing them for stealable objects, not that you are just some weirdo looking for fuzzy dice.

And speaking of fuzzy dice, I haven't seen any. I know they must be out there. Fuzzy dice were the original hangy things. I think it was back in the '50s. But it's possible that rear view mirror decoration preceded that. When the first car rolled off Henry Ford's assembly line, the scene might have been something like this: Henry polishes smudges off the fender of the first car. "You know, it's a beautiful thing, the automobile -- the powerful engine, the leather seats, the nice black paint job -- but there still seems to be something missing. Does that rearview mirror look a little plain to you?"

EVER since then, people have been dolling up cars with all kinds of junk. Raccoon tails flying off the antenna (later replaced by Styrofoam clown heads), hula dolls with swinging hips on the dash board, ceramic dogs with bouncing noggins in the back window ... the typical American reaction of not being able to leave well-enough alone.

Now cars have become the repository of all manner of collectables. Stuffed animals, baseball caps, dirty laundry, empty vodka bottles. The owners have this insatiable need to let complete strangers know what particular weirdness they are into.

I recently saw a brand new Volkswagen Beetle, candy-yellow, and hanging from the rear view mirror was one of those plush stuffed M&M (candy-yellow) characters from the TV commercials. It was so cute you wanted to gag. I paused to consider the message this person was trying to send the world about his or her life. But it kind of scared me so I moved on.

If you are going to use your car to make a statement here's what you do: put a rolled up karate uniform wrapped in a black belt in the back window; have a pair of "nunchucks" casually resting on the dashboard (driver's side); hang something that looks like a scalp from your rear view mirror (a string of teeth will do, too); and stick a Styrofoam clown head on your antenna with needles in its eyes. To finish the effect, you put "Have a Nice Day" and "smiley face" stickers on your rear bumper.

Sure, it's not real subtle. But you won't have to worry about locking your doors anymore.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802
or send E-mail to

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