I was driving to the grocery story the other day, and what should appear in front of me but a battered Volvo covered in bumper stickers. Or perhaps I should call them rear-of-vehicle stickers since they were plastered over every square inch of the back end that would accept adhesive. They were mostly political endorsements: "Obama/Biden '08", "Feingold.org," "Baldwin: U.S. Congress." There was also this new one that's going around: "1-20-09, End of an Error."
I consider myself an independent, and yet it still perturbs me when people self-righteously parade their holier-than-thou political beliefs all over creation. Don't they realize how smug they seem? I changed lanes to pull even with the Volvo, and the woman behind the wheel looked like a poster child for lefty causes. I wanted to scream at her what an utter cliché she is, but that's not how my mamma raised me.
Still, don't you think there ought to be a law banning public displays of affectation? Why should I have to read this drivel?
Otto Repair: You're going to kill me for saying this, but your email reminded me of a bumper sticker I once saw: "Avoid Clichés Like the Plague." For not only is the woman in the Volvo an utter cliché, so are you, getting all worked up because someone chose to exercise her freedom of expression. Like it or not, bumpers are part of the public realm, the marketplace of ideas, and if you don't like it...well, that reminds me of another bumper sticker, my favorite of all time: "How is my driving? 1-800-EAT-SHIT."
I happen to like bumper stickers, which probably makes me an utter cliché as well. But they can be so pithy, so clever. A recent favorite of mine: "If evolution is outlawed, only outlaws will evolve." Don't get me wrong. I like a good right-wing bumper sticker as much as I do a good left-wing bumper sticker. Actually, I hate a good right-wing bumper sticker, not that I've ever seen one, but if I had, I would defend to the death its right to clutter up my windshield with pithy, clever hatefulness.
Bumper stickers are like text messages, only pithier, more clever. And surely it's only a matter of time before people start posting their cell-phone numbers on the rear ends of their cars so they can hook up with that cute guy who just drove by in his sporty convertible. Better yet, we could all attach those computerized LED boards to our car roofs, which would allow us to share every thought that crosses through our minds as that jerk in the BMW cuts us off in traffic.
We've been here before, of course, with the CB-radio craze of the 1970s, but this would be less personal, less friendly. Interestingly enough, people whose cars are festooned with bumper stickers tend to be the ones who succumb to road rage - so says a study done by a team of social psychologists at Colorado State University. And it doesn't matter what the bumper sticker says, apparently. It can even be one of those "Baby on Board" things that used to drive me to thoughts of infanticide.
What's going on? Well, it seems that bumper stickers are a way of marking one's territory, personalizing one's space, and bumper-sticker people therefore tend to take it rather personally when you, say, cut in front of them without signaling. You've invaded their privacy. If you ask me, we'd all be better off if they'd just pee on their cars to mark their territory. Which reminds me of a bumper sticker I once saw: "Nice Truck! Sorry About Your Little Pee-Pee."
I can't think of anything pithy and clever to say, so just write to: Mr. Right, Isthmus, 101 King St., Madison, WI 53703. Or call 251-1206, ext. 152. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.