Amusingly, while it is considered gauche to talk about politics or religion around the dinner table or in polite company, many of us have found therapeutic outlets for self-expression about these very same things on our back bumpers.
This is the first of my confessions: I’ve never put a bumper sticker on my car. The only time I came close was when a certain politician was running for office, and even then it was only by proxy that I joined the ranks of the many Americans who choose to wear their views on their cars in lieu of their sleeves. My husband put the sticker on his bumper, with the result that I, a church pastor at the time, chose to drive our other unclothed vehicle to work.
Still, while I have yet to summon up enough courage to be- come the vehicular poster girl for the next worthy cause or passionately held belief, I have harbored a curiosity about—and even a shy admiration for—those who make their rear bumpers moving billboards. You might even say that I have cultivated a hobby out of reading these slogans above other people’s tailpipes. The 1969 Volkswagen perched in the parking lot, “scattered, smothered and covered” in full-blown, Waffle House style, like some postmodern totem pole in homage to its artist. Or the soccer parent’s Honda Odyssey with the one token, silver fish emblem, encircling the word, “Jesus” (or, if not Jesus, then “Darwin”). Or the Chevrolet with the cryptic saying that you struggle to make sense of and are still decoding the next day.
Amusingly, while it is considered gauche to talk about politics or religion around the dinner table or in polite company, many of us have found therapeutic outlets for self-expression about these very same things on our back bumpers. Pithy aphorisms. Funny quotations. Senseless double entèndres. in-your-face declarations of what we believe. Our bumper stickers are an open, sometimes voyeuristic window onto our hearts and the things that inspire, of- fend, infuriate, move, embarrass, and perplex us.
In my line of work, I spend a whole lot of time in the car. These comings and goings are often marked by the mindless entertainment of bumper stickers, be they idling at a light or lounging in a parking lot. Bumper stickers often catch my attention and frequently elicit at least a laugh or a pair of raised eyebrows, if not an exclamation of disbelief.
There are also the times when bumper stickers signify more than mere amusement, insofar as they imply something about their owner: for example, that bumper sticker on the luxury SUV, recklessly weaving through traffic at seventy-miles-per-hour on the freeway, which reads, “My tapeworm is smarter than your honor student”; or the dilapidated pickup truck, overladen by second-hand furniture threatening to topple at any moment, which sports the rear-end declaration, “I’m just here to annoy you.”