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PALM LATITUDES

ON-RAMP : The Tell-Tale Parts

January 23, 1994|Janet Fitch

Los Angeles is a car town, a place where we encounter our fellow human primarily on the road. We wonder about the drivers surrounding us. Who are they, what are their dreams? Based on clues found on their rearview mirrors, L.A. drivers fall into one of six categories:

The Spiritualist. Look for crucifixes, rosaries, Buddhas, holy cards, crystals and tiny beaded medicine bags. They all serve the same talismanic purpose: "Please, God, get me home in one piece." Often spotted driving 90 between semis on the Santa Ana.

The Sentimentalist. Look for keepsakes, toys and souvenirs of childhood or rites of passage: dolls, stuffed animals, baby shoes, dog tags and graduation tassels. Softhearted people, they let you in ahead of them at rush hour and brake for animals.

The Sensualist. Chimes, bells, Christmas tree air fresheners and potpourri baskets, not to mention furry seat covers and steering wheels. Sensualists live in a world of their own and are often caught at red lights with eyes closed, singing along to "My Cherie Amour" with a soulful expression.

The Self-Advertiser. The miniature ballet shoes, doctor's stethoscope, Playboy bunny insignia, little tennis racket or feathered roach clip tell you in a hurry that this is a me-first type of person. This is the motorist most likely to park in a handicapped zone.

The Artist. Watch for clutches of plastic skeletons, retro-'60s love beads, spray-painted macaroni sculptures, origami animals and things that take an entire red light to decipher. An enthusiastic person, but easily distracted, the Artist has been known to take both hands off the wheel while trying to emphasize a point.

The Expression-Impaired. A person who has nothing hanging from his rearview mirror. He might be a fine, upstanding citizen, but he takes himself too seriously. And you know he can't dance.

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