The Knights of the Auto Order Proudly Present:
The Auto Body Estimate: Vol. II, #43, August 2000
Sometimes it takes me a while to catch on to things. For the longest time I thought people put little rainbow stickers on the bumper of their car because they thought rainbows were cute. It turns out that most do this because they think that people who use the same locker room as they do are cute. I've since become fascinated by the idea of secret codes and symbols in everyday life.
Our "inverted pink triangle" friends have a long history of these codes. I've heard that in the days when "gay" still referred to gays, lesbians, bisexuals AND transgender persons, wearing Green And Yellow on Thursdays was among their secret symbols. When I first got my ear pierced in the early 80's it was generally assumed that a man with a ring in his left ear was gay. I submit that to this day a man with a ring in his toilet bowl is heterosexual AND single. The color and placement of bandanas on your body can give specific clues to your sexual preferences and interests: I've recently come into possession of a chart which explains this "Hanky Code", traditionally used to communicate in the noisy and distracting environment of gay bars.
Bandanas are also used to denote gang affiliation as well as what kind of drugs you have for sale. Here we begin to see the danger in adopting a sign to which others might give a different significance. I was tempted to switch to Kleenex for fear that a mauve handkerchief hanging out of my right front pocket might alternately mean I am: A.) a member of The Crips, B.) seeking a partner with a navel fetish, C.) trying to sell some crack cocaine, or D.) an allergy sufferer. Fortunately I checked the Hanky Code first: the significance it associated with Kleenex made even yours truly blush!
Gangs and gays are not the only strange "bedfellows" that share secret symbols: reputedly the practice of placing a certain number of fingers in your waistband has been used by gangs as well as members of the KKK. When discussing the gang significance of ball cap position (visor backward, to the right, to the left...) with a gay friend, he referred to the visor-forward position as "the way God intended it to be", a judgment I enjoyed immensely.
I was recently paging through "McSweeney's", a rather odd magazine, when I read a letter in which a man explained that two tennis shoes tied together and hung over a power line is a coded "advertisement that drugs are sold nearby." Shortly thereafter I was on a bike ride up north and saw a tangle of fishing line and lures on an overhead power cable. I figure this is a coded message that a bait shop with a liquor license is nearby.
While in California, I occasionally noticed a small unobtrusive bumper sticker on various cars. There was no text, just a symbol. As I daily went past the scientology building AND was currently reading The Illuminatus Trilogy (a great conspiracy theory novel) I instinctively reasoned that this sticker denoted membership in some secret sect – something like the imperial margarine crowns you see in the rear windows of certain cars*. After all, this was Hollywood: one of my classmates there belonged to some sort of religious group in which everyone wore red pants: pretty wild stuff. Afraid, unwilling, or simply not presented with a convenient opportunity to ask a driver of such a car of the significance of the sticker, I began to casually inquire among my friends to no avail; this did not seem to be an easy code to crack. By the time I discovered that a chain of muffler shops put this decal on the cars they serviced, my imagination had already run wild and the damage was done.
I think that part of my fascination is with the idea that there's stuff going on all around us that we know nothing about. I'm reminded of the opening scene of Blue Velvet, where beneath the surface of perfectly serene green lawns and rosebushes are thousands of ants, worms and weevils. I also think there's something resembling optimism in the thought that beneath all of us Schultzes and Klinks and there's always a Hogan digging away. Look at some traffic lights in St. Paul. You may have never noticed before that on the very top they have an additional bulb; a smaller white light that is rarely lit. While some suggest that these lights have something to do with the operation of emergency vehicles, others contend that they signal that you need to attend an Auto Body Experience gig. (Their infrequent illumination may be a factor in the delay of our plan of world-wide domination.)
In case you get the signal, the Auto Body Experience will again begin digging away at 10:00 PM on Friday, September 8th at Christiansen's. Or Big V's. Exactly what the place is called depends on who you ask. It's just a door or two east of the corner of Snelling and University in St. Paul. We'll be featuring the ivory tinklings of our newest member, Trey ZehrGrimm. I wonder what color of bandana, and where you’d wear it, to signify that?
-Scott Yoho, Grand Pooh-Bah, Knights of the Auto Order
* Special thanks to Michael Fleming for reminding me of THAT one.Return the Estimate Index...