Saturday, October 31, 2015

Mixed Messages

I am a consumer of bumper stickers. The vox populi fascinates me. (The all-weather, car wash safe, guaranteed not to fade edition, anyway.)

If there is an upside to being in a traffic jam, it's the opportunity to read dozens, if not hundreds of them. Of course, if your zip code skews more to Bentleys than ten-year-old Subarus, this might not be the case.

They can be poignant: Practice Random Acts of Kindness. And Senseless Acts of Beauty.

And they can be funny: Watch Out for the Idiot Behind Me. My Karma Ran Over Your Dogma.

So little is mirthful about the act of driving that I cherish any and all opportunities for behind the wheel belly laughs.

Of course, in twenty-first century America, not all is gaiety and light. Bumper stickers often take a darker and far-uglier turn than the examples cited above.

The prize for general, one-size-fits-all hostility probably goes to the pick-up truck with Fuck You Dickhead plastered in its rear window.

On multi-stickered vehicles, there is usually a line of continuity indicating interests, opinions and so on. Sports team affiliations, bands, politics and social causes are some of the most popular.

Then there are the mixed messages.

Like the late-model Nissan Sentra I sat behind at a traffic signal. On the driver's side was a bumper sticker which read Gas Grass or Ass Nobody Rides for Free. On the passenger side sat one informing me in bright pink letters there was a Baby on Board.

I pondered the disparity.

Was this parent really picking up hitch-hikers and demanding herbal intoxicants and physical intimacies from them? Did one sticker represent a husband/boyfriend and the other a wife/girlfriend? And were they still a couple?

As I continued to try and reconcile the adhesive anomaly in front of me, I wondered whether taking gas money from a stranger in the presence of an infant really represented sound parenting.

Then revelation struck.This was a work in progress! 

The bumper stickers had captured this driver in mid-transition, in between the feckless, cocksure arrogance of youth and the onset of caring, nurturing parenthood.

Yeah, that was it. 

The light turned green and I continued on my way. As did the Nissan Sentra. 

I hoped I had it right.

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