To borrow from the facile ogic of Fender-speak, if bumperstickers were outlawed, only outlaws would have bumperstickers. Such an occurrence, though improbable, grows more attractive every rush hour.
Of course, that's only one opinion, and opinions are like, well, bumperstickers: Everyone's got one. Still, Americans have lately been getting their feelings off their chests and onto their chassis with alarming intensity.
The most ubiquitious and least offensive motor missives tend to deal with occupations or hobbies. Say you're a free-lance goatherd who races crawfish in your spare time? Not to worry. There's a sticker somewhere to proclaim your special talents.
It has long been common knowledge that "teachers do it with class." Only the desingation of "it" unclear. There are bumperstickers for journalists, lawyers, deep-sea divers. Everybody is getting his or her verbal intercourse, so to speak, on the streets.
Bumperlocution, while hardly a new phenomenon, has evolved and intensified over the years. Where once the message was short even terse ("Pike's Peak," "Vote Nixon"), the typical bumpersticker has lately become lengthy, agressive, boldly intimate.
People who seem perfectly civilized on two feet are giving advice on sexual matters ("Love a nurse"), taking random religious polls ("Honk if you love the Lord") and even conferring guilt ("Have you hugged a kid today?") -- all from the fenders of their automobiles.
Bumperstickers range from the selfcongratulatory tone of the aforementioned variety to the merely self-content ("I found it"); from vague ("I'm bad, I'm nationwide") to cosmicly confident ("Honk if you're Jesus").
The problem arises when a simple form of humor is embraced by the hopelessly humorless. People feel safer about making strident statements when no one can contradict them face to face. The only response to an insult moving 35 mph is to make a chrome comeback of one's own and hope the opposition gets caught behind you in a traffic jam.
Thus it was bound to happen that the highway -- already a place where tensions collide -- has become an emotional battlefield as well.Animal enthusiasts advise us to "Save the whales -- boycott Japanese goods," while others worried about their own species sport a one-eyed happy face carrying the subtler message, "Mutants for nukes." Then there are those who simply want to save controversy itself from extinction: "Nuke the whales."
For a while there was a preponderance of stickers practically beseeching complete strangers to inquire about some relative or another. These messages seemed so urgent that on one occasion, after 250 miles of following a pickup truck with "Ask me about my grandchild" emblazoned on both fenders, I approached the driver at the hamburger counter of a Stuckey's. I did not know what to expect, but the fellow had a certain avuncular appeal, and I thought maybe he would show me some pictures or something, at least appreciate the response.
"So how is the little tyke?" I put forth, offering him my ketchup in the bargain.
The man looked at me skeptically, with one ear cocked as though he wasn't sure I was speaking to him. "Beg pardon?"
"Your grandchild. How's he doing?" I said. Whereupon Grand-dad finished drowning his fries in ketchup, handed me the bottle with a devastating look, and walkout out to his slogan-plastered truck without another word.
I'm still trying to figure that out. Judging from the old guy's auto body language, the kid seem to be pretty much on his mind. Maybe I misphrased the question.
Or maybe this whole thing of wearing our feelings on our fenders is an Edsel of an idea, one that's headed straight for Burma Shave Heaven as soon as the energy crises forces us to return to less radical forms of communication.
In the meantime, eat more possum, see Rock City, and by all means have a nice day.