The “I Was Here” Game Debate: Should FlyerTalk Members Leave Their Mark?

Back in June of 2004, FlyerTalk member RobotDoctor proposed an idea: FlyerTalk members who are flying as passengers on United Airlines sign their FlyerTalk names on the United Voices page of the current issue of Hemispheres, which is the official monthly in-flight magazine of United Airlines.

This idea became a popular tradition which — albeit with a few tweaks and adjustments along the way — is still in practice today. Additionally, FlyerTalk members who fly as passengers on other airlines have adapted this popular tradition — such as signing the editorial page of Sky magazine, which is the official monthly in-flight magazine of Delta Air Lines.

Now along comes FlyerTalk member thewayofthefuture, who proposes to give a new twist to this popular tradition by extending it to those FlyerTalk members who rent vehicles from The Hertz Corporation — except that instead of signing a page in a magazine, FlyerTalk members would sign one of the blank pages in the back of the owner’s manual of the vehicle.

This is where the debate comes in: is it considered defacing property for the sake of a “game”?

While some FlyerTalk members believe so — arguing that the owner’s manual stays with the vehicle and whomever purchases that vehicle after the rental car company sells it will not like having pages missing or with writing on them — others counter that the purpose of those empty pages is for taking notes and therefore not defacing property.

Official in-flight magazines of an airline are usually discarded when a new issue is printed and distributed aboard the fleet of aircraft, so having a signed page in the magazine may at best be a minor annoyance to the person reading that issue during a flight. I can tell you that for me, that would be less annoying than finding a crossword puzzle which is not already partially or completely filled out by a different passenger on a previous flight, as seems to usually happen in my case.

Then again, even more irritating is when I read an article in the magazine — only to have the last page of that article missing because someone tore it out. There must have been a coupon offering an amazing deal on the other side of that page. However, the irritations and annoyances are usually resolved with a replacement copy of that issue of the magazine, usually readily available elsewhere aboard the aircraft — assuming that the copies are not missing or being used at that moment, anyway.

In the case of the owner’s manual of the rental car: is signing a blank page similar to graffiti where the manual is considered defaced by someone leaving their mark?

To answer that question, I had to think about the owner’s manual in my car, and I realized something: I have never written a single mark on the empty pages of the owner’s manual of any vehicle I have ever owned. In fact — with the advent of the Internet — I do not recall the last time I even looked at the owner’s manual of a vehicle. It simply sits hidden away in the glove compartment, only to see the light of day when the objects overstuffed into it inadvertently fall out whenever the little door to it is opened in order for me or someone else to search for something that was not in there in the first place.

This is the owner’s manual to my car, open to one of its requisite blank pages. Thanks to you, I saw it for the first time in who knows how long — and yes, the contents of my glove compartment once again spilled out when I went to retrieve it. This proves that I will do whatever I can and brave the unknown for the sole purpose of writing content for readers of The Gate. Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

Then I realized something: has the owner’s manual become as obsolete as a telephone directory due to disruptive technology? In the rare event in which I want to find out more information about a vehicle which I am driving, I can simply find out about it via the Internet — which is especially useful if any information has changed since the owner’s manual was printed.

I abhor graffiti — and as an artist, I do not consider graffiti as art. Rather, I think of most graffiti as a means of defacing property, rarely improving the aesthetic value of the object on which it “adorns” — but that is simply my own subjective opinion.

You might argue that writing on the blank pages of the owner’s manual of a vehicle other than for the purpose of legitimate notes pertaining to the vehicle is no different than graffiti, defacing the pages of the owner’s manual and possibly even diminishing the value of the owner’s manual. Then again, there were many times the owner’s manual was missing from vehicles I have rented in the past. My understanding is that they were stolen. If that is indeed the case, then those owner’s manuals had value. Perhaps the diminishing of value of those owner’s manuals as a result of FlyerTalk members signing blank pages would reduce the amount of supposed thefts of those owner’s manuals — assuming that people are still absconding with them.

The strange part is that despite my abhorrence of and aversion to graffiti, the thought of purchasing a vehicle with the black pages of its owner’s manual signed by FlyerTalk members is rather — well — cool. I cannot explain the reason why — perhaps as a FlyerTalk member myself, it would be interesting to see who exactly rented that vehicle before I owned it. Then again, my opinion might be different if I were not a FlyerTalk member.

I propose a solution: perhaps rental car companies should think about publishing a monthly magazine and distribute it on the passenger front seat in each of the vehicles they rent out to their customers. This will save postage for those who still distribute newsletters by mail and offer a potential opportunity to earn additional revenue for the rental car company from advertising and promotions, while giving FlyerTalk members a place to sign their names without defacing that vaunted and cherished owner’s manual — leaving it in pristine condition for those who will never use it…

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Comments (Showing 2 of 2)

  • 98103 at 9:27am January 25, 2013

    That’ll fly. I’m sure what they save in postage will cover the cost of publishing a monthly magazine to put each of their vehicles.

  • mcrace at 6:49pm May 14, 2013

    Leave the contract signed with your Flyertalk name in the glove box. People can just add to is and the rental car company is not at all likely to look in there. They don’t often put the owner’s manual in the car these days.

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