Churches remain known for their massive parking lots the size of the kingdom of heaven themselves; Sunday mornings gave birth to Pathfinders, Priuses and Corollas alike, jam-packed like sardines alongside one another on a regular basis. Commonly, a car would pull into park with its shiny “Jesus is my Co-Pilot” sticker shimmering off the rear bumper, asserting its presence, as a professionally-dressed, most likely Christian woman stepped out, a bible tucked under one arm. Walking through the church parking lot, I wouldn’t have done a single double take if one of the bumpers read “Repent or be Damned.” Christian drivers seemed predictable.
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Elsewhere, on the road home from the church, several bumpers boldly declared “My Other Ride is Your Mom” and “I Love Hookers” as their fresh-from-college, tattooed drivers blasted the latest rap tunes and rolled down the front windows, screeching obscenities for seemingly no reason at other drivers. As offensive as the stickers themselves may have been, they certainly did the drivers’ obnoxious personalities justice. The bumper did the time-consuming job of whispering “Warning: Immature Idiot Ahead” for any driver unfortunate enough to be caught behind such a nuisance. (Read: me). And yet, nothing unpredictable from these drivers either.
Bumper stickers can identify as the equivalent of a vehicular tattoo: they don’t come off easily, they have some significance or another, and they often are the result of nasty errors in judgment. Not a single day goes by without at least one unlucky soul’s vehicle vehemently showing off a half-torn, shoddily-removed sticker coated in residue. More often than not, they are the remains of political campaign stickers past, ditched in favor of a newer, shinier “Insert Candidate 2016” display beside it. On the other hand, many drivers avidly stick to one set of roots or beliefs: I’ve yet to see a single Smart Car owner who lacked a “Go Green!” or “Go Vegan” sticker to prominently distinguish themselves from anyone driving an environmentally friendly car “just because.”
The spacious SUV or RV with a “Rocky Mountains” or “Yellowstone National Park” sticker smack dab in the middle of Florida brings to image one title: traveler. Caught behind such a vehicle while pulling into a roadside rest stop, it was no surprise when a tourist couple stepped out hand-in-hand. Upon closer inspection, heaps of bags sat piled one on top of another in the backseat. Sure enough, the license plate did not beg to differ: “Ohio”, it read. The stickers portrayed the two perfectly.
Any driver can easily spot a proud, loving mother pulling into elementary school parking lots for PTO meetings on a regular basis, bumpers shouting with joy. “My Child is an Honor Roll Student” or “My Child is a Terrific Kid” often nestle themselves just below the trunk handle. These two stickers once appeared only every millennia or so, but now seem to crop up on every vehicle in school car rider lines at any given point in time. Ironically, a car with an annoyed driver and a doberman leaning out the side window may often growl angrily in response to the faithful mothers, berating them via bumper to the tune of “My Dog Could Eat Your Honor Student.”
Every bumper sticker has its varied opinions and ideals, yet they rarely, if ever, mismatch those of the driver. On the contrary, bumper stickers tend to showcase the values and personality of the driver flawlessly. Not every “value” may be socially acceptable, per se (i.e., a scruffy middle-aged man who once drove past me with a “My, Those Boobs Look Heavy, May I Hold Them For You?” sticker), but they’re exceptionally accurate 97% of the time. Drivers, be they sarcastic, serious or sleazy, pick and choose opinions that can be displayed publicly on their behalf. It’s still easier to read my cousin’s “If the Answer is Obama, the Question is Wrong” sticker than dare delve into his political values verbally. A bumper sticker basically serves the as a forced, painfully accurate first impression on behalf of the vegan/Christian/Republican driver.
My mother often berates bumper stickers, calling them “overused, inaccurate and usually stupid.” An avid dog foster and animal rights activist, she was never a huge fan of explaining her passions. Her recent “I Love my Bully” and “Spay, Neuter, Adopt” stickers have done the work for her altogether. No matter her opinions on the stickers themselves, they wouldn’t cling to her car’s rear end if they weren’t her values.
“You are what you eat” could be modified to fit the PTO mom, the Atheist and the Seminoles fan flawlessly: “You are what your bumper says.” The motto holds true with every “Salt Life”, “Coexist” and “Support Our Troops” sticker that zips past my car on the highway. Though my bumper might be a virgin to the world of sticky, residue-leaving opinions, it won’t be long before a “Check Your Grammar” sticker clings to my car. After all, it spares me from stating the obvious.