Monday, February 05, 2007

Honk if You Read Bumper Stickers

Bumper stickers have always fascinated me. When I was young and hip, I used to attach them to my car (that oh-so-hip Subaru Justy I drove in those days). Mine were usually clever advertisements for my alma mater or political statements. These days, Bob’s and my cars are bumper sticker free. We considered putting the “Eat my voltage” sticker on the Prius (it came with it when we bought it), but we never did.

So, I’m a true voyeur now when it comes to this particular sort of adornment, and I have to admit they're becoming quite boring and unoriginal. Political bumper stickers merely announcing who you’re going to vote for/have voted for don’t cause a stir in me. Actually, I’m lying about that. There was a period when a “Bush” sticker would cause me to rethink my pacifistic, be-kind-to-others-on-the-road nature. Now, however, when I see one of those, which have become quite rare, I just think, “So, now that Bush has been in office so long, can you no longer afford the razor blade and nail polish remover you need to get that thing off, which does nothing but announce you voted for a filthy rich, arrogant idiot, who couldn't care less about you and your average income?”

Anyway, usually political bumper stickers don’t do much for me. They have to be extremely clever. Bumper stickers announcing college affiliations only grab my attention when I see a car that has about five different ones on it and find myself thinking, “Those poor parents with all those kids, forking out all that money.” Well, that’s what I think if they’re on the bumper of a beat up old Subaru station wagon. If they’re on the back of a Ford Excessive with tinted windows, I’m more likely to muse, “They deserve it. Hope all their kids flunk out, and they end up in the poor house with nothing to show for it.”

I hate those bumper stickers that brag about how Johnny is an honor student. Whatever happened to the days when such bragging was considered crass, and, besides, who really cares? Tell me your kid loves to windsurf, wants to be on Broadway, has become a vegetarian. Those are things that might make me want to stop and have a conversation with the child. I couldn’t care less if he/she can make good grades in a screwy educational system. Worse, though, are the ones that announce, “My kid beat up your honor roll student.” That’s supposed to be funny? I ask that question, because I fear what’s even worse: it’s true. Many honor roll kids get picked on enough without parents supporting that old schoolyard tradition.

Then there are those who like to sport the sticker that announces in tiny print, “If you can read this, you’re driving too close.” Obviously, they have no clue that there are those of us out here for whom the written word serves the same purpose a bright light does for a moth. If I see it, I have to read it. If you hadn’t slapped the ridiculous sticker there, I’d still be half a mile back instead of riding on your bumper right now.

Religious bumper stickers seem to be very popular. Again (says the future pastor’s wife), what happened to the days of considering these sorts of things to be private matters? I’m pretty sure not many conversions occur, because someone’s driving along and sees a “Jesus Saves” sticker on someone else’s car. One of the most amusing ones I saw recently just flat out said, “God is Pro-Life.” When I got over my feelings of wishing I was so sure of what God is, I found myself thinking, “Oh really? Where is this person getting his information? I mean, if you read The Bible, you’ll come across such things as The Flood, in which God just decided to kill almost everybody. You’ll discover people were killed merely because they carried The Ark of the Covenant incorrectly. These sorts of events don’t exactly point to a “Pro-Life God.”

I’m also somewhat amused by the “I brake for animals” bumper sticker. I mean, I really don’t know many people who don’t. It’s kind of like announcing, “I brake for red lights.” What do the people who stick this on their cars think: they brake, while the rest of us just plow right on through that cow, hoping to grab a good steak on the way out?

So, most of them bore me. Still, I’m a voyeur, always on the lookout. Every so often, one catches my eye and really turns me on. Problem is, like most one night stands, I never seem to be able to remember them.


Anne Camille said...

I saw a memorable bumper sticker once on a beat-up old car, parked illegally in front of a favorite neighborhood watering hole. It read: Eschew Obfuscation. That the car was filled with trash consisting mostly of broken peanut shells and empty beer bottles only added to its charms. Most others I forget before the next stop light. Same with vanity plates.

Anonymous said...

Oh, how fun. I used to enjoy bumper stickers as well but now I don't think too much about them one way or the other - comes from being on the road as a commuter too often, probably. It's funny how we make up whole personalities for folks driving cars though, isn't it? I HOLLER at people who pass me in SUV's and Hummers, just holler at them.
and by the way, I DROVE A SUBARU TOO.

mandarine said...

We do not have that many stickers in France either. We only have three of them, and they are all regional flags: Breizh (for Brittany), Euskadi (for the Basque country) or Corsica.

I came across the US tradition of funny stickers when I was staying with my cousins in Berkeley. They had used individual letter stickers to write a pun on the top and bottom parts of the rear license plate frame. It read:
'I am an ass...'
And indeed, their father does research in particle physics and cosmology.

litlove said...

The only one I've ever seen that really made me laugh said: 'Jesus loves you. Everyone else thinks you're an a**hole'. Mostly in the UK we have 'Child on board' ones that are, to my mind, redundant. Boy racers don't care and everyone else on the road isn't exactly choosing who to crash into.

Ian said...

In the last ten years or so I realized that the little oval bumper stickers that you see in Europe that declare a nationality, like GB, really took off here in this country. Problem is, our country is tacky. I notice that there are little oval bumper stickers that claim people are from Kernersville (KVLL) or Mocksville (MKVLL). Why would you want to declare that? I'm waiting to see some that say, NCDC, short for North Carolina Department of Corrections, or TMI, for Three Mile Island.

Emily Barton said...

Cam, oh yes, vanity plates. I forgot about those. Just as boring as bumper stickers.

Charlotte, now THAT'S the kind of bumper sticker I love (funny how it seems all countries have this North-South rivalry).

Court, well now that I know you're a Taurus, and so many of my friends in life have been Tauruses, it makes perfect sense we both used to drive Subarus (and no one wants to be in a car with me when I pass a Hummer).

Mandarine, creative cousins (runs in the family, right?)

Litlove, oh yes, those pointless and tiresome "Baby on Board stickers." I should have included them.

Ian, and yet another kind of bumper sticker I forgot to mention I hate (especially since it's a European rip-off, done in typically tacky American fashion). Mocksville? Really? You've got to be joking.

Anonymous said...

You have to come to Minneapolis,we have some good ones here (and lots of bad ones) but if you do come here and see a little red Saturn with a sticker that says "The Only Bush I Trust Is My Own" wave because that'll be me. If you want to make people mad though put a "Support Your Right To Arm Bears" sticker on your car like my husband did. He gets flipped off regularly.

Rebecca H. said...

Religious bumper stickers drive me up the wall -- you're right -- who's going to change their minds because of them?

Anonymous said...

I am so with you on this, Emily. Bumper stickers completely baffle me and I've also had to work on my urge to ram into cars announcing their allegiance to Bush/Cheney (but I find anti-Bush stickers just as irritating). But I reserve a special disdain for those parental bragging signs. I usually end up feeling sorry for those people--how empty must their lives be if they feel the need to announce their kid's honor roll status on the back of their car? What next, "My daughter got her period" or "My son lost his virginity?"

I also cringe at the "Support Our Troops" entreaties, as if we wouldn't if they didn't tell us to. On the other hand, if I'm really honest, I'd have to admit how moved I was during the first few weeks after 9/11 to see all those American flags waving from people's cars. But by October I was over it and thought the flags were starting to represent something else (and most of them were horribly frayed by then anyway). Do we HAVE to communicate with others on our bumpers?

Emily Barton said...

Stef, well it sounds like memorable bumper stickers can certainly be found in Minneapolis.

Dorr, glad to see someone else sees the nonsense in religious bumper stickers.

Danny, I was moved by all those American flags, too, and then that flag was stolen from the likes of us. I love the little ones, though, that say, "Think: It's Patriotic."

Anonymous said...

A few days ago one of my kids (the one who wants to be a vegetarian, and loves to windsurf, not the one who wants to be on broadway... just to get that straight)asked why it was that all the bumper stickers in Berkeley are on Subarus. And indeed they are. He seemed to think it was a cool way to let people know about things they might not know about (save the panda bears, for example). My guess is that in ten years, he'll be driving one of those subarus. And then in another ten years he'll be scraping off the "Somewhere in Texas a Village has Lost its Idiot" sticker.

Emily Barton said...

Bloglily, I am sure I'd want to spend hours talking with your children. Twenty years from now, you'll have to tell your son to remove that sticker very carefully. I'm sure it will be worth something!