Sherlocking on the Highway

Interesting post on “reverse-Sherlocking” by Monica Marier. If you look on her site, you’ll also notice that her most recent post in 2012 is about Sherlocking her nail salon attendant’s thumbnails (by the way, I notice that Marier hasn’t posted for some months — I hope she begins again, because I enjoy her posts). Anyway, I noticed that after watching Sherlock, one of my favorite shows ever, that I will now occasionally attempt to engage in unlocking the mystery of what the back end of a car says about it’s owners. This usually happens during longish drives on a highway, especially in slow traffic. I mean, you don’t want to be doing that when you’re driving 65+ miles an hour.

It seems to be natural for humans to want to identify themselves this way. I myself have a “powered by Gohan” mighty rice cooker sticker on the back of my little car. So many people put up stick-figure stickers that announce their household demographics, e.g. mom, dad, 3 kids, two dogs, one cat. Then there are the religions and anti-religious fish/Darwin stickers, favorite rock band stickers, intellectual or political stickers. There are Semper Fi stickers, college stickers, and rainbow stickers. And never forget ___ ___ (name) stickers. These are like tattoos, signs that say, this is me, I’m part of this tribe.

Vanity license plates are easy, and meant to be so. But there are a few vanity plates that seem deliberately designed to game you. Long words or phrases are contracted and squished down to just a few letters. “What the…!!” I catch myself saying, on occasion. And then me and my passenger will spend the next few minutes trying to figure it out.

All that stuff is fairly obvious. But the ones that are most interesting are stickers that are obscure and (seemingly) esoteric–mysterious acronyms, odd symbols, and fragments of torn stickers that have you wondering about the lives or past lives of the person driving that car. Some cars have very little on the back end, yet there are signs: A rosary hanging from the rear view mirror, ski racks, surf boards, dog cages, a back end piled high with clothes, fender dents that look like they’ve been smashed more than once. Sometimes you’ll see someone rummaging through the back end of their car through blankets and clothing, and realize that they probably sleep in the car at night.

So, after tallying up all the signs, then you try to add them up: OK, semper fi sticker, but also a peace sign, a community college sticker, and a “question authority” sticker? Hmm, Viet Nam war era vet, now retired (?) from teaching at a community college.  It’s difficult to not take a little peek to see what they look like when you finally pass them on the road.

I swear, this kind of snoopy behavior on my part would never have happened if it hadn’t been for Sherlock.



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