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lillycoyote's avatar

What does it mean when someone leaves a white towel, tee-shirt or plastic bag in the window of a car they have left on the shoulder of the highway?

Asked by lillycoyote (24810points) May 28th, 2010

Maybe it’s a regional thing but I see it all the time. A car is abandoned on the side of the highway and someone has put a tee-shirt, plastic bag, etc. always white, rolled up in the drivers’ side window so that most of it is hanging from the outside. Have you seen this? What does it mean? Is the driver indicating that he has not just abandoned his car but is coming back? It doesn’t seem like it really matters because your car will be towed after a certain period of time whether you left a sign or not? And where do people learn to do these things? I never got the memo.

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14 Answers

Primobabe's avatar

I surrender?

lillycoyote's avatar

@Primobabe I have no clue. I see this all the time and I don’t know what the hell it means.

Kraigmo's avatar

I never heard of this or seen this phenomenon. I typed this “hang a white flag on drivers window” in Google, and the first listing I got was
at this site: http://www.kgbanswers.com/why-do-people-hang-a-white-flag-from-their-car-when-its-broken-down-on-the-side-of-the-road/1568488, and the “technician” who answered the question there got his information from this site here:
http://www.fluther.com/37586/what-does-a-white-clothshirt-out-of-the-window-of-a/

lillycoyote's avatar

@Kraigmo Thanks so much, excellent googling. It doesn’t answer all my questions but at least I know that I am not just imagining this and that other people have noticed it. The interesting thing is that all the answers indicate that it is some sort of “standardized signal” in the U.S. for “my car has broken down” yet I have lived in the U.S. my entire life and have always been completely baffled by this. Like I said in my question, in the details, I never go the memo on this one. And I didn’t realize someone had already asked a question on Fluther regarding this.

Kraigmo's avatar

@lillycoyote , I live in California; I’ve never heard of this either. I think any vehicle on the side of the highway is obviously disabled.

lillycoyote's avatar

@Kraigmo That’s what I think too. So I don’t get the point of the flag thing. No matter what the signal means, if you leave your car on the side of the road and don’t retrieve it after a certain time, specified by law, it is going to get towed as abandoned.

augustlan's avatar

I’ve lived on the east coast of the US all my life, and have always known that it means the car is broken down, and that the driver has gone to get help & plans to return soon.

jrpowell's avatar

I live on the west coast and was always told that it means that you don’t need to tow it. We are getting help so don’t bother.

zenele's avatar

It means the car has a flat, and the (female) driver has gone to get help. If you would be a dear and put the spare on, and get a little dirty, there’s soap and a towel to wash up afterwards. Just leave the towel to dry in the window when you’re done. Thanks, dear.

john65pennington's avatar

This means nothing in the south. if you are broken down, leaving a note under the windshield wiper blade, will buy you some time. the note must be dated, reason for the note, and when you expect to return. if the vehicle is not parked in a dangerous position, most officers will give the owner 24 hours to remove or repair his vehicle.

The white shirt is just a white shirt and no meaning to the police.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’ve always thought a white flag/item of any sort “HELP” signal but can’t tell you where I learned it. I grew up in California.

jazmina88's avatar

white is the color to ask for HELP.

janbb's avatar

Yeah – I live on the East Coast and I always took it to mean “broke down and gone for help.”

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