Clown pants and no doors?

California’s freeways are an endless kaleidoscope of the weird and wonderful.

Keep your eyes open when you’re traveling the interstates or you’ll miss the memory of a lifetime – a grinning bagpiper emerging from the center divider oleanders, perhaps, or the imposing radiator of a Kenworth truck-trailer rig suddenly appearing in your back seat.

It’s also important to stay alert on the freeway so you can avoid a select group of other motorists variously referred to as Bozos, nitwits and lunatics (not necessarily in that order).

Remember, players change from year to year. Thirty years ago, you had to keep a sharp eye out for drunken drivers. They seemed to be everywhere, from the tops of roadside palm trees to the depths of your backyard koi pond.

Then we had an influx of armed and dangerous wayfarers. Easily aggravated, they’d start shooting if you had the temerity to change lanes within a quarter mile of them.

The latest generation of maniac motorists is a little harder to spot, since they rarely tip you off by waving a gin bottle or handgun, but they’re still out there and they can really ruin your day if you get too close.

Take, for instance, the Fish Utility Vehicle. These are generally 9,500-pound sport utility vehicles driven by myopic yuppies who have affixed a fish symbol to the rear of their 4-wheel-drive condominiums.

I know what you’re thinking – “Hey, that’s just a symbol of Christian faith. Those people have got to be OK.”

You’re partially right. On any other vehicle, the fish symbol would probably indicate that you were approaching a polite carload of dedicated churchgoers.

When you see it on lane-straddling Fish Utility Vehicle, though, you can bet it signifies something entirely different.

Judging by recent observances on the freeway, I’ve determined that these particular fish symbols most likely embody a cryptic warning, such as:

* Caution! I drive like a trout.

* Stay outta my lane or I’ll smack ya with a salmon.

* I’ve got a fishing license – who needs a driver’s license?

Almost as troubling, but considerably rarer, are motorists wearing baggy checkered clown pants driving vehicles missing one or more of their doors. I’ve twice observed variations on this somewhat surreal freeway theme during the past year.

Admittedly, I haven’t seen them involved in any truly catastrophic freeway mishaps, but I figure it’s only a matter of time.

Think about it – clown pants? And, hey, those doors didn’t just fly away on their own…

Finally, steer clear of anyone with more than three Oakland Raiders stickers on their truck.

These guys generally don’t seem to understand concepts like one-way traffic, stop signs or signaling a lane change.

Instead of using their turn signals, they use an audible. You know: “Seven, eleven, hut-hut-hut! Laaaaane chaaaange!”

They’re such scamps…

Originally published October 20, 2002