Monday, November 5, 2012

Road Oddities

Houston loves its cars. I mean, LOVES its cars. We give a nominal nod to pedestrians and mass transit, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the car[i]. Our freeways are massive; my commute to work, at times, is on a freeway 26 lanes wide[ii]. We love our cars so much, we are even driven to take glamour pictures of them against Texas backdrops.

Mazda3 glamour
Scene from “Mazda 3 Goes to the Beach!”.

The point is that car ownership in Texas has a certain distinct flavor. That flavor carries over to their vanity plates and various bumper adornments. Get enough rambunctious Texans, all driving in the same place, and you’re guaranteed a good sampling of Texas-style oddity will ensue.  Here are a few of my favorite examples, ranging from the predictable angry politics of the anonymous bumper to the downright oddness of personalized license plates that just don’t have enough letters to get the intended message across.

The Political: 

“Impeach Obama”.  Sadly, I see a lot of these. This is the car equivalent of internet comment pages. However, if this seems boringly predictable to those of you jaded by the current mad dog political hooplah, then let me show you how we do angry politics in Texas, where the next rational step is….

“Secede”. One of the endearing Texas urban legends that seems to have permeated even some elements of the education system is the myth that Texas retained the right to unilaterally secede from the Union. This is demonstrably not the case (even if it weren’t for Texas v. White), but it is a doggedly pervasive fiction[iii]. Our governor even hints at it from time to time. And it gets tossed around a lot, like: “I don’t like the President, Texas should secede!”, or “We don’t like the liberals in the northeast, Texas should secede!”, or “It’s Tuesday, Texas should secede!”

However, sometimes the mix of urban existence and staunch conservative principles gets a wee bit confused. Here we have bumper stickers for a variety of Tea Party/far right candidates and declarations of conservative principles…..on a Prius. Sometime after that I swear I saw a massive SUV with a bumper sticker promoting awareness of global warming.

The Odd Choices:
Sometimes you just have to wonder.
“Audi r-8”.  Tautology edition.

Versa with Consular
“Consular Plates” …on a Versa. I get it...not every nation can afford a Town Car for its embassy, but a Versa? If we are in a world where this is a thing, as the kids say, I have to wonder whether there are also little black consular Smartcars running about. I applaud their fuel efficiency at the cost of geopolitical reputation.

Farmer Truck + Blinged out rims = awesome. Reppin’ the back 40.

The Indecipherable:
I first started paying attention to these after I came to a stop behind a car (not pictured) with the license plate OIL BNR. Oil Burner? Oil Boner? Some horrible combination thereof? These are the indecipherable vanity plates of Houston suburbia, and my conjecture on potential meanings.
“TDDIVA” plate on a Masserati. Touch Down Diva?  (Perhaps the girlfriend of an NFL player, or a player himself secure in his masculinity?) Totally Disco Diva?  (living in the past?) Touch ‘da Diver ? (a lonely SCUBA enthusiast? )

“Punjtan”  Punjab tan?  Punjabistan (an east Pakistani/North Indian separatist enthusiast)?

“OTZK” – Over Thirty Zebra Kills (a successful safari)? , Obviously, the Zombies Kill! (a cautionary message)? , Oats, ‘kay? (lolspeak demands from a hungry horse)?

“RFEO 64” – Ok, this last one is cheating a bit, since I now know the answer, but it was just an awesome freeway find. Driving outside of San Antonio, we were passed by this fantastic convertible with two men in dark suits in the front, and a gentleman dressed like the Pope riding in back. A placard on the side had religious looking symbols and indecipherable script and the plate simple said REO FEO. A little bit of exhaustive research[iv] later, and the answer became clear, if not still a little wacky to see cruising down the highway. This gentleman is the Rey Feo…the “Ugly King”[v] of the time honored tradition of Fiesta in San Antonio, which dates to 1891 and includes a court of 9 “kings and queens”. It’s a really big deal in San Carnival in Brazil, or Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Apparently he gets to be driven around in a big car (hence, the '64).


[i] ..and the truck….and the SUV….
[ii] This is not an exaggeration…if anything, this is an understatement, as it doesn’t include some entrance ramps/turn lanes, etc. This is just straight up drivin’ lanes.
[iii] I have tried, and failed utterly, to convince some native Texan friends of this. I’m pretty sure I’m now on a watch list for trying. Between this and my Obama lawn sign, I fully expect to be repatriated to NY soon.
[iv] Read: I Googled it.
[v] If Google translate can be trusted

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