I have discovered that hitchhikers--at least many of those prone to leaving their marks on road-side light poles—as an aggregate are exceptional at coming up with colorful nicknames for themselves. Maybe it’s the frame of mind developed while standing out there for long stints fruitlessly flagging rides. Maybe some want to leave an otherwise anonymous “I was here” (e.g., pasó por aquí) record of themselves that today we call a “brand.” Maybe others prefer announcing their existence in obscurity because of some covert or clandestine motive. Maybe as risk-takers, some are compelled to take nicknames that fit their personality or particular condition. Maybe if examined by a sociologist, perhaps a more clinical conclusion, definitive diagnosis, or accurate analysis than any of these may emerge. In any case, contrary to one's given or first name (praenomen to you Romans of olde, or the agnomen bestowed on said Latin-Europeans as an honor from others other than mothers and fathers), these hitchhiker nicknames seem to be names more taken than given.
Anyway, having collected several hundred nicknames from light poles, I tried to organize them in some sort of order or groupings so they can be examined or simply better enjoyed. This has proved challenging. The easiest way was to arrange them chronologically as I collected them, and then in alphabetical order. But these approaches simply create laundry lists and mute the muses they trigger and stifle the music they make. So then I chose somewhat arbitrary, yet what seemed reasonable categories: animal, vegetable, mineral, drifter/traveler, spiritual/religious, celestial, druggie/trippy, Indian, rhymers, couples/groups, and the bizarre or disturbing. There are also those I consider most intriguing and those which I cannot determine if they have typos in them or are wonderful double entendres or are otherwise plays on words.
This is the beauty and frustrating double-edged sword of logging hitchhiker inscriptions in general--did the author really mean what I think they meant to convey or were they merely semiliterate? (Is someone semiliterate or semi-illiterate or semilliterate?) I guess it depends on whether the class was half absent or half present (half full? halffull? halfull? halful? halfull? Or half empty? halfempty? haffempty? hafempty?) In any case, it is a ha'penny coin toss or for your thoughts on figuring how to fulfill these criteria). Or it is possible that the author had poor penmanship or the writing has faded or was otherwise obfuscated. In any case, the author is not available to provide insight, so I make the best guess I can.
A perfect example of this is misspelled, or perhaps cleverly devised nickname, “Newport Beach Phyco,” which I logged at the on-ramp at US 101 North in San Mateo, California. Did the hitchhiker intend to write “phyco,” or more likely attempt to spell “psycho,” and got it pathetically wrong? Or was the hitchhiker brilliant and spelled it correctly? “Phyco” is a term used by biologists when classifying seaweed--phycology being the study of seaweed and algae; organisms quite common to and ubiquitous around the Newport Beach area. So, was this hitchhiker from this Southern California coastal town a self-described so-called lunatic (psycho) or taking the nickname after the plant-like marine growths? I likely never will definitively know, but nothing to get lose sleep over or get psyched-out about.