Sunday, August 29, 2010


The modern automobile is an extension of the people who buckle themselves therein. The old, bald guy in the red sports car is a cliché, but only because he exists in great number. The soccer mom in the ginormous SUV takes up two parking spots at the grocery store when she stops to pick up one bag of food.

Young men in their twenties hover under the hoods of their muscle cars for hours, other folks religiously wash and wax their vehicles and vigorously spray Windex and Armor All on whatever surfaces warrant it, and some people drive unsightly beaters simply as a way to get from Point A to Point Wherever-They-Are-Going (a.k.a. Point B).

We are all free to do as we wish with our cars. I saw a minivan the other day that had uncountable bumper stickers across the entire rear surface. Even the back window had a bunch, with two small spaces left clear, presumably so the driver could back up with at least a modicum amount of safety. I see cars like that every once in a while and strain to read at least a few of the important messages before the vehicle speeds off.

They are often funny—“Jesus Saves . . . at Raley’s” for example. Or politically incorrect: “Earth First! We’ll strip mine the other planets later.” Sometimes one contradicts another just inches away. Which is also funny.

I used to have a Darwin fish on the back of our old pickup truck. Other people prefer the IXOYE version or the one advertising Buddha, Gefilte, or Cthulhu. All can be ordered online, and many more, for a small delivery charge. Individuality is great, no matter whom you might offend.

I don’t mind Jack in the Box antenna balls, rusty bumpers, or extra wide bicycle racks that extend dangerously past the sides of the car. License plate frames are fun to read—unless the font is so small that I have to seriously tailgate to get the joke—and the myriad special license plates, with or without personalized tags, are a waste of money, but I say do it if you want to. It’s your car. And your dime.

Here’s my point:

I really don’t understand the little sticker families that are taking over the rear windows of our personal transportation vehicles. You know the ones: stick figures to represent dad, mom, each kid, and often even the family pets. For some reason the drivers want passersby to be able to verify that everyone in the family is indeed in the car so that the home can be safely burgled. It’s the perfect way to case the joint.

Obviously it is just another form of self-expression, but it is rife with dilemmas. The stickers representing little Johnny and Susie are smaller than the ones for the parents, but eventually Johnny is going to tower over Mom, as will Susie if her pituitary gland continues to misfire. Think of the expense in updating the stickers each year . . . it’ll likely wipe out the kids’ college funds.

Then somewhere down the road another baby will come along, and his or her sticker will be slapped on right in order, after the two cat stick figures. That ought to be the basis of several years of psychotherapy.

Stickers will have to be removed after death and divorce, and then replaced when the much younger stepmother enters the picture. Her kids will have to be included in the family display at some point, but maybe that should wait until after an appropriate mourning period. Like after Mom’s casket sticker is removed.

It’s a whole “my nuclear family is better than your nuclear family” thing. I don’t see any single folks putting on one sticker on their cars, and I have yet to see an arrangement that includes only one parent figure. Or, for that matter, two parental units of the same gender. This is an outrage! It is discrimination! People with one arm have no representative sticker! My brother with the ponytail can’t find a decal that shares his true nature with everyone who drives by.

Come to think of it, I think he prefers it that way. He likes to be anonymous, other than the fact that he’s an old guy with a ponytail. But maybe that’s just my bald head being jealous.

I am not jealous of these stickers, though. I think they are stupid, but I grant the rest of you the freedom to apply them to your cars if you want. Maybe it is the best way for you to make sure the entire family is in the car before you leave on vacation. Just match the stickers to the humans and away you go! The same counting system will also prevent accidentally leaving one of the kids in a gas station bathroom as you drive across the country to visit the Devil’s Rope Museum in McLean, Texas.

Unless, of course, that is exactly what you intended to do. Maybe your son just wouldn’t stop counting telephone poles out loud. That could be really annoying.

Don’t worry, Dad can always scratch off Junior’s stick figure at the next rest stop to update the head count.

1 comment:

  1. But you left out the "prize" sticker, the one that says, "My child is an Honor Student at Mud Gulch Middle School." I wonder if the individuals who use these stickers have some sort of serious inferiority disorder caused by the fact that they were always the left behind child who never got any recognition when growing up.