Where does the nationwide obsession with bumper stickers originate? I have never been able to understand why Americans need to make sure trailing traffic knows that they love their Golden Collie, voted for Clinton, alternatively want to put Clinton in jail, believe in “Coexisting”, or just really want to highlight the difference between heritage and racism. Maybe we get so tired of our cars we want to make sure they aren’t visible under the thick layer of our homemade paper collages, or maybe we desire for our vehicles to be reflections of ourselves, as a result of all the time we spend commuting.
Despite having more or less made peace with the fact that bumper stickers will continue to exist,
I still critique and comment as I pass on the highway. I have always, always judged them – this holds especially true when, as an admittedly aggressive driver, I’m forced to wait behind them during a red light.
Yesterday, the black leather seats of my car had heated up to a ridiculous proportion; I wanted nothing more than to get home. I inched the nose as quickly up to the bumper of the family-sized sedan in front of me, thrumming out a beat of irritation on my wheel. As the sunlight burned, the light flickered from yellow to red. I would have to glare, wide-eyed, at the fine dust drifting over this sedan window for thirty seconds.
Then I noticed the family sticker plastered to the lower left corner, and I almost lost it.
There is no rational explanation for why these stick figure families bother me the absolute most, but I think it’s because they strike me as extremely superfluous. You drive a 10-person minivan; I already know you have a huge family. It also takes an impressively large ego to think that I care to know not only that you have two sons and three daughters, but that I also know their ages based on the descending height order of these stickers.
I nosed up even closer to spite the female driver, whose dark shape I saw waving her arms at the yelling forms in the backseat. My eyes flitted over the bumper stickers once more. Her car was clean; the glass would’ve been, if not for a single smudge.
You know the residue that stays behind from a sticker when you fail to peel it off all the way, and you’re left with this rubber that somehow manages to leave a sticky film behind on your fingers, even weeks after it’s gone?
A mother, a father, and four kids. A fifth one, at the very end, the smallest – rubbed out, but not all the way. That sticky residue clinging behind, but this time in the still discernible form of a torso, an arm, and a leg. I could imagine her walking past her car, then flinging her broken nails into that final figure, and stumbling away before the entirety of the image could be scraped away.
I have judged and cruelly laughed at these stickers so often in my life. Yesterday, I cried. Because when I pulled to the left and past the car, I caught the eyes of this frustrated woman, and I saw the deep grooves pulling at the corners of her eyes, but they didn’t crinkle the way smile lines do – I know she wished there was one more struggling body and cry in the car, fighting with its brothers and sisters.
I will judge again. But each time that I do, I know that I will now imagine peeling off one of the stickers and feeling it catch as I crumble it up in my fingertips, and I will stop. I will blink, and I will drive a little slower to stop shadowing the car and to give it space.