Making You Stop And Think

I’m not a fan of bumper stickers. These days, they tend to be trite, or obscene, or at least crass — and usually a combination of those qualities. Bumper stickers, like Twitter, really aren’t suited for thoughtful discourse about anything more important than memorializing your visit to Wall Drug.

But every once in a while you see a bumper sticker that makes you stop and think — like the nifty message conveyed by this bumper sticker I saw on my walk this morning.


I got a chuckle out of this bumper sticker I saw on the back of a pick-up truck in our neighborhood — and particularly the crossed paddles that tie in to the “Shit Creek” reference — but seeing the sticker made me realize that I’ve never put a bumper sticker on my car.

No smiley face back in the days when that was inexplicably popular.  No sticker expressing support for any political candidate, national, state, or local.  Nothing to show that I’ve been to Wall Drug, or South of the Border, or Disney World, or any other attraction.  No jokes or clever sayings.  No stick-figure representation of our family, or disclosure that our kids were honor students — or athletes, or band members — at their schools.  In short, every bumper and back end of every car I’ve ever owned has remained wholly virgin territory, free of any advertisement for any person, place, or thing.

I’m not sure exactly why, but I’ve never even been tempted to buy and affix a bumper sticker.  I guess I feel, deep down, that a bumper is a pretty inefficient forum to communicate anything important, that no other driver really gives a crap about where I’ve been or who I support, and that as time passes my tastes and interests might change.  The political candidate I voted for five years ago might be exposed to have feet of clay, and then the sticker would need to be scraped off to avoid embarrassment.  And while the “Shit Creek” joke made me smile the first time I saw it, would I still feel the same way after hundreds of viewings, as the sticker faded and peeled?  Or would I regret that I ever cluttered my bumper with it in the first place?  How many people who affix a bumper sticker ultimately experience bumper sticker regret?

I’m just not ready to make a bumper sticker commitment.


Mitt Bows Out, And Drivers Get Ready For Hillary

On Friday, Mitt Romney told his supporters that he won’t be running for President in 2016.  Although he’s clearly been bitten by the presidential bug — he’s run for the nation’s highest office the last two elections — Romney said he wanted to make way for the “next generation of Republican leaders.”

I’m not sure precisely who is in the “next generation of Republican leaders” — it seems like there are about 20 names of current and former Governors and Senators being thrown around as likely candidates — but I think Romney made the right decision.  You can only run for President so many times before you become a bit of a joke, like Harold Stassen or Hubert Humphrey were when I was a kid.  Two runs is about the maximum, and if you’re going to bump up against that rule of thumb you may as well exit stage right with some class.  Romney did that with his statement on Friday; good luck to him and his family.

RIMG_4712omney was leading in preference polls, so his exit gives the Republican race a wide-open feel. What about the Democrat frontrunner?  Hillary Clinton has been laying low recently, with few appearances on her calendar.  Some say she wants to let Republicans fight and then emerge in the spring as a fresh face; others wonder if she isn’t brushing up on her political skills after a rocky book-signing tour.

If Hillary Clinton is in fact going to run, maybe she it would be a good idea for her to give some careful thought to messaging.  Yesterday I saw the bumper sticker pictured above at a stop light at a Columbus intersection, and it was a clinker for me.  Why should voters announce that they are “ready” for Hillary?  Is the bumper sticker suggesting that America has previously been a benighted land that is only now ready to finally recognize the merits of Hillary Clinton?  Shouldn’t the burden be the other way around — that it’s Hillary Clinton’s burden to show that she is ready for the most difficult job in the world?  The bumper sticker seems to tie into the theme that some potential Democratic candidates are beginning to float that Clinton is an arrogant, out-of-touch frontrunner whose campaign is based entirely on overwhelming fundraising and an ominous sense of inevitability.  It’s not an especially attractive theme for a presidential campaign.

Bumper Sticker Truth

IMG_4413I’m not much for bumper stickers.  I’ve never put one on my car, and I doubt that I ever will.  Sometimes, however, bumper stickers make me laugh, whether I agree with them or not.   I saw one recently, for example, that read:  “Democrats think the glass is half full.  Republicans think it’s their glass.”

It’s much rarer to see a bumper sticker that captures a deeper truth.  I thought that this bumper sticker, seen on a car parked in Mahone Bay, hit the nail on the head.

I Hate Those “How Am I Driving?” Bumper Stickers

I hereby confess to you all:  I hate those “How Am I Driving?” bumper stickers that you see on so many commercial vehicles.

IMG_3030The point of the bumper sticker, evidently, is to indicate that the company that owns the truck or van deeply cares about the views of the other poor unfortunates on the highway and will take stern action if it receives complaints about reckless or otherwise crappy driving by its employees.  (The alternative explanation — that the drivers themselves are incredibly needy people who crave constant reinforcement from complete strangers about their driving abilities — is too disturbing to contemplate.)

Was there ever an emptier effort by a business to establish a positive civic profile?  Has anyone ever actually called the number shown?  I’ve got to believe you get a recording and a confusing set of different push-button options — if the number is even a real number in the first place.

Are you supposed to call while you are driving, or are you supposed to somehow jot down the phone number while you are driving, as well as the number of the particular vehicle, and then call later?  Either way, the bumper stickers seem designed to hinder highway safety, rather than promote it.  And, even worse, isn’t it awfully presumptuous for the business owner to think that I’ll waste my precious time giving them feedback on their employees?  Who in the world would care so little about the value of their free time that they would spend it calling a number to tell some flunky about about somebody else’s driving?

If a company wants to be a good member of the community, let them treat their customers fairly, pay their employees a reasonable wage, and support civic institutions.  They shouldn’t try to skate by with some meaningless bumper sticker.

Bumper Sticker People

I’ve never put a bumper sticker of any kind on my car.  I think they make your car look trashy as they inevitably fade and peel — and my car looks trashy enough without that extra assistance.

I also don’t understand the point of political and quasi-political bumper stickers.  Are they supposed to just make people who are like-minded feel better, because the bumper stickers show that others share their views and aren’t afraid to advertise that fact publicly?  Or, are they supposed to help wavering people make their final decision through the weight of views expressed on the bumpers that happen to be on that section of road at that time?

If there really are people so feeble-minded that their votes are swaying by bumper stickers, do they pay attention to the drivers of the cars that sport the sticker?  If a guy drives like a jackass and cuts me off so he can edge in to the turnoff at the last minute, and the last thing I see is his “Obama 2012” bumper sticker, I’m not exactly in the mood to adopt his political views as well-reasoned.

And what of the cars with multiple bumper stickers?  Isn’t there a mixed message issue there?  Which one am I supposed to read as it zooms by?

Of all the bumper stickers I’ve seen recently, the one that I find the most puzzling is the “Coexist” sticker on which the letters are replaced by different symbols.  Is the message that we should coexist?  If so, don’t the religions all coexist already, as evidenced by the fact that their symbols are sufficiently well-known to make it onto an insipid, mass-produced bumper sticker?  Or, is the message that we should coexist better — by, perhaps, not slaughtering or slandering people of different religious beliefs?  If it is the latter, do we really think that a drive-by glance at someone’s rear bumper is going to convert a religious bigot into a thoughtful proponent of tolerance?

By the way, do people with those “Coexist” bumper stickers on their cars ever get victimized by road rage incidents? If so, do they just shrug and point to their bumpers?  And is there any way to study whether “Coexist” drivers are targeted for road rage because of the stickers?

It seems like an awful lot is expected of that little blue sticker.  I’d rather leave my car as is.