Isn’t Falmouth nice?

Friday 6 June 2014 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — National Donut Day

Here’s something you don’t know about me, dear readers. Some people read cards. I read cars. It’s a skill anyone can acquire. All you have to do is look and see. From a distance, you can often identify the make of the car. Back in my youth, it was easier to tell one car from another. Cars had obvious styling differences in those days. Now cars all look alike, at least to me. At any rate, if you can determine it’s a luxury car ahead of you, approach with caution. 

Studies have shown that drivers of luxury cars, big SUVs, and chromed-out pickup trucks (that are cleaner than pickup trucks have the right to be) tend to take more chances. Unfortunately I am not making this up. It’s a proven scientific fact. Drivers of these types of cars are most likely to ignore pedestrians in crosswalks, fail to signal a lane change, and dash out ahead of other cars at intersections — among other dangerous driving habits. Of the top 10 cars most likely to get a traffic ticket, number one is a Mercedes-Benz model (Mercedes-Benz models are also numbers six and nine). Number two is a Hummer.

The second thing I notice as I get closer to a car is the color of the license plate. If it’s an out-of-state plate, that driver is less likely to be aware of the quirks of local driving. I would be the same if I were driving in a neighborhood unfamiliar to me. It’s to be expected. You should have seen me driving through an Irish village or on the high mountain roads of Madeira.

You can tell absolutely nothing about a person from the color of the car itself. Color is a matter of taste — a personal preference. It’s an urban myth that operators of bright red or yellow cars drive faster and are more reckless than other drivers. The truth is that grey cars get more speeding tickets in proportion to their numbers. Beware of late-model grey luxury cars with out-of-state plates.  

Lastly, when I get close enough to a car, I can read the various stickers posted on the vehicle. These are very informative. There’s one bumper sticker that reads, “If you can read this, you’re driving too close!” Sometimes I’m tempted to tailgate just so that I can read the stickers on the car in front of me. The best place to read stickers, I have found, is waiting in a queue at the service window of Dippin’ Donuts. 

From a car’s stickers, you can tell a lot about the owner — how he or she has voted or will vote in local and national elections; what pets and breeds they favor; how many children there are in the family; what sports teams they support; what sports they play; what beaches and recycling stations they frequent; where the kids go to school (and sometimes their academic rating); what organizations they belong to; what kind of work they do; and occasionally what religion they practice. It amazes me that with all the concern these days about safeguarding personal information, all you need to do is read the automobile.

Let me give you an example. I was waiting in line at the Dippin’ Donuts window. The vehicle in front of me was an older model van. This told me the driver probably had a family and was, no doubt, a safe driver. Some of the bumper stickers were local, which meant the driver knew enough to watch for bicycles approaching from the right as he left Dippin’ Donuts. They can come whizzing up on you and there’s a large bush blocking your vision. The license plate frame told me the owner once attended the Coast Guard Academy and, by deduction, that he had graduated. A government-issued parking sticker told me he was still in the Coast Guard. I knew the driver was Pro-Life due to the special-order “Respect Life” plate. I also knew that the driver was a brother Knight of Columbus. That would mean he was a Catholic gentleman. I knew this because of the sticker “Keep Christ in Christmas,” a slogan campaign of the Knights. There was another sticker, “Isn’t Falmouth nice?” That meant there was a one-in-three chance the man was a parishioner. I might have learned more, but a detached arm reached out of the window, handed him his coffee and donut, and off he went.

“Isn’t Falmouth nice?” isn’t a motto I would personally choose for the town. It would be better suited for, say, that place they call Oz, but I must agree it reflects our way of thinking.

Astronomical summer doesn’t begin in the Northern Hemisphere until 6:51 a.m., EDT, on 21 June. But on Cape Cod, we live in our own time zone. Summer began for us on the Memorial Day weekend. Just look at all the out-of-state cars. And to our summer guests we bid warm welcome and ask the eternal question, “Isn’t Falmouth nice?” 

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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