News from the Tennessee Valley Current

Stephanie Gilliam

Bane of bumper stickers

Why do people have bumper stickers? Is it simply to express their personalities? To share something about themselves with other drivers? I guess it's an expression of self, a desire to forge a connection with human beings in our impersonal modern society. But do we want to know that much about other people?

The most common stickers seem to be related to people's children — honor student this, baseball that, children's names on little soccer balls and basketballs. When I was growing up, I always wanted Mom to put bumper stickers on our cars. I didn't even care what they said. She acted like attaching a sticker to a car was the vehicular equivalent of getting a tattoo. No matter how cool you think it is now, you might regret it later. I think about that when I see stickers that say "Don't blame me, I voted for Bush" or more lately "Dated Dean, Married Kerry." I wonder if the Heinz ketchup lady has one of those.

Remember when President Bush was inaugurated, and the presidential limousine had a tag that said "No taxation without representation"? Bill Clinton put it on to protest the fact that Washington, D.C., residents pay taxes, but don't get to be a state, or something to that effect. Bush took it off because he didn't feel that was a sentiment the president should express on his vehicle.

It's kind of like a long time ago when my mom bought a used minivan that had a University of Alabama sticker on it. Nobody in my family has ever been associated with the university, but fortunately, when you fork over the first semester's tuition to Vanderbilt University, they give you a sticker to put on your windshield. So the people who bought the van from my parents are stuck with both Alabama and Vanderbilt stickers on their Dodge Caravan.

Lately I've been feeling left out because everyone, except me, seems to have at least one bumper sticker. Some people have several. I've thought about sticking something on my car, but how do you decide which aspect of your multi-faceted personality to share with the world? Should I get one that declares my support for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival? Vanderbilt? Duke basketball? Protect Our Environment? McCain 2008? I ♥ Labrador Retrievers? Support a local no-kill animal shelter?

My church has stickers that you can slap on your back windshield, but next time I do something goofy on the road, I don't want the person behind me to cuss at me and Decatur Baptist Church.

Last week, I got stuck behind a slow-moving van, and by the time it turned down another street, I was ready to start a petition against the cause its bumper sticker endorsed. Therein lies the true danger of bumper stickers — not that they will become a regretfully permanent part of your brand-new vehicle, but that you will alienate people from your cause with your rotten driving.

Stephanie Gilliam, 24, is a Decatur resident who works for Hospice of the Valley.

Stephanie Gilliam Stephanie Gilliam

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