Fuzzy Dice And Other Watchacallums
Mascots? Decorations? Danglers? Actually, the English language doesn’t have an actual name for those ornaments that hang from the rear view mirror. Fuzzy dice are the iconic examples but the furry cubes aren’t the only things we’ve seen. As this post is going to discuss them and it’s going to be boring to type out (and read) “fuzzy dice or other items hanging from the rear view mirror” every time, I’m going to make up a word: danglers. Danglers will do.
The most important issue relating to danglers is whether or not they are legal. The powers that be – and rightly so – take exception to anything that obscures the driver’s vision. According to the Queensland police, anything that gets between you and the arc of the windscreen wipers is considered to block your vision and create a blind spot, and this applies to GPS units and mobile phone mounts as well as danglers (presumably, the heads-up displays that come in some luxury vehicles these days don’t count). Roads and Maritime Services of NSW suggests that anything swinging and dangling will be distracting but doesn’t actually have any specifications beyond “the driver must have the clearest possible view of the road particularly in poor lighting conditions at dusk, night or while driving in rain.” In Victoria, they get a bit more specific: “Any vehicle presented for a roadworthy inspection with any dangling objects hanging from the rear vision mirror should not be issued with a RWC until the objects are removed.” South Australia’s spec sheet has plenty to say about tinting and TV/DVD screens but nothing about danglers. It’s definitely illegal in Western Australia to have anything hanging from a rear view mirror (nice to have it spelled out so clearly and plainly!). Across the ditch in New Zealand, it seems to be OK.
In short, it’s probably best to leave the danglers off.
However, I’m not a total killjoy. If you can position the danglers where they won’t obscure your vision or hit you in the head, then you can have them. This means that the danglers are going to have to be small, so those iconic fluffy dice are out. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of other options.
Where did the tradition of hanging things from the windscreen come from? Historically and psychologically speaking, the origins of adding decorations to your form of transport are lost in the mists of time. Ancient Greek triremes had eyes painted on the front, old-fashioned sailing boats had their figureheads, warhorses were decked out with plumes and plough horses had collars covered with brass charms. Tricking out a car with something for luck or just for fun is just an extension of this. However, regarding the actual fuzzy dice, folklore has it that this was started by US fighter pilots in World War 2, who hung up the dice for good luck. Those who came back from the war carried the tradition over to their cars, which is why the fuzzy dice are such a 1950s thing.
Danglers aren’t limited to fuzzy dice. Even in places where it’s legal, you don’t see too many fuzzy dice, except on cars belonging to retro enthusiasts and a certain type of bogan. Air fresheners are a lot more popular and come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, ranging from things shaped like pine trees and smelling of something described by advertising copywriters as pine trees (but doesn’t really smell like an actual pine tree) through to handmade ceramic or fabric potpourri bags redolent of essential oils.
After that, of course, you are limited only by your imagination, your sense of taste and what’s legal. A quick glance through Pinterest and similar sites (from jurisdictions where they’re legal, of course) throws up a good range of ideas that fall into two main categories, those for supernatural protection or luck or blessing or something of that sort. In other words, things that fall into the religious or spiritual category (and I’m including New Age spirituality in here). Crosses, rosaries, crystals, angels, Native American spirit animals, Hamsa hands, Feng Shui mirrors, medallions of St Christopher (patron saint of travellers)… there are heaps of them to suit any set of beliefs. Technically, dream catchers would fall into this category but I thought these were only supposed to work for letting good dreams through and keeping nightmares out when you’re asleep… If you’re asleep at the wheel, you’ve got more to worry about than a nightmare, mate.
The second category includes anything that’s hung up there just for fun because you like it and you think it looks nice. Soft toys, bunches of dried flowers, skulls, you name it. The powers that be get particularly snippy about these if they’re sparkly (disco balls, for example) because the twinkling and flashing in your eyes is distracting when you’re on the road.
A third category exists: safety signs and reminders. These are especially understandable in the case of taxis. But make sure that they’re spelled correctly…
My personal preference is not to have anything hanging on the rear view mirror because it can be annoying. However, there are other places to hang things if you want to pretty up your car and make it yours. The chicken handles in the rear, the back of the head rests (great if you want to hang up something for a baby to look at during a long car trip), attached to the rear passenger windows with suction pads, clipped onto the air vents… there are plenty of places if you look. In this department, VW’s New Beetle has to be a winner with the flower vase, acknowledging that drivers might want to add something quirky and fun.
If you live in a place where you can get away with a dangler, do you have fluffy dice or other danglers hanging from your rear view mirror? What do you have? Or what have you seen? If you live somewhere that doesn’t permit danglers, how do you customise your vehicle and where do you put things like air fresheners?