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Honk If You Love Honking

I’ll try to lead by example here. It’s not my forte, so bear with me: Imagine you’re looking at my car. It doesn’t matter what model or make you imagine—just don’t make it either an SUV or an EV1, OK? Something in between, please. Now imagine you’re looking at the bumper. (Now imagine less rust. Thanks.) What you’ll see is an imaginary bumper sticker. Not a stretch, right? After all the bumper sticker is the logically placed proof of that old axiom about opinions and posteriors. Which brings me to my point: Here’s what I think my bumper sticker would say, if I had one:

“My congratulations on your honor student’s ambition and hard work.”

How about: “Though I’m not partial myself, I’m sure your Ford and/or Chevy is a fine automobile, and I’m happy that you take such pleasure in it.”

Or maybe, “I can see you’ve given this some thought and feel strongly about this.”

Or maybe, maybe, just maybe: “What on earth makes you think I give a flying poke what you think, how you’re going to vote, where your kid goes to school or what it costs you, what mass-produced witticisms about drug use/sanity/the institution of marriage you find funny, how members of your chosen profession/trade union “do it,” what activity you’d rather be engaged in right now, or where you stand on the issue of abortion/the afterlife/the theory of evolution, or NASCAR loyalties? And why do you think that the best place to express those necessarily shallow thoughts is on a piece of plastic adhesive traveling past me at 75 MPH while you, the putative pundit, are shielded from all actual discourse by tinted windows and the white-noise hum of the AC? Well? I’m waiting.”

All right, that last would only exacerbate the problem, but, seriously people, enough with the bumper stickers, please. Bumper stickers are the very banners of Passive-Aggressive Nation. Why not just get a label that says, “I’m terrified of you and the encroachment of your opinions and lifestyle on my opinions and lifestyle.” Or “I’m such a craven status mongerer that the logo of my car isn’t enough, I’ve also got to let you know that I can afford to send my kid to Wherever-the-Hell U.” Or, “I can’t think of a joke all on my own, but I’ll bring stickers if you invite me to the party.”

And, by the way, dude, you with the red pick-up truck and the copyright-infringing Calvin pissing on the word “ex-wife”—yes, you—you must know that you are broadcasting to the world not your toughness, but rather your utter emasculation and infantiliazation at the hands of your former spouse, however shrewish she may, in fact, have been. You do realize that, right?

Isn’t the morning commute annoying enough without all this—often aggressively anti-social—chatter? I mean, lady, I knew you were a “Bitch” when you swerved into my lane without signaling, checking your blind spot or putting down either the cell phone, the Marlboro Light or the frosty lipstick—I didn’t need it confirmed with the sparkly oval on the ass end of your lavender Neon, you know? Consider the point taken.

But it’s too widespread a phenomenon to stem, that’s clear. So, though I don’t now have a bumper sticker, I’m thinking about printing up some: Some bland, value-neutral, falsely affirmative tidbits lifted from the pages of Dealing With Difficult People or Tolerating Dummies for Dummies. Because you can’t reason with these people, but they imprint like goslings. Maybe it’ll catch on, and the roadways will one day be filled with civil, fatuous pleasantries like “I hear you saying you’d like me to use my turn signal” or “I value your input, and will give your suggestions the consideration they deserve.”

What if it caught on? What if it spread? If we got the bumper stickers could the T-shirts be far behind? Maybe the family I saw at the grocery store—Papa bearing on his chest the proud slogan, “I’m not anti-social, I just don’t like you”; daughter with her cap-sleeve baby-T boldly pronouncing, “I ª my attitude problem”—will in this placid utopia be clad in shirts that read, “Hiya” and “I’m working to become a happier person.”

And once the market was identified, the purveyors of popular entertainment would quickly fall in line, scrabbling to get a chunk of the please-and-thank-you demographic’s disposable income. First TV: Instead of Cops, we’d have Crossing Guards; instead of Crossfire, we’d have Consensus; instead of American Idol, we’d have, um, American Idyll? American Idle, maybe? Then feature films: Instill Bill (With a Deeply Rooted Sense of Self-Worth), Vol. 2; The Bourne Adequacy; M. Night Shyamalan’s Voorheesville.

Chuck Pahluhniuk would climb to the top of the New York Times bestseller list with his new anger management book Chicken Soup for the Transgressive Soul; Clitorture would change their name to Godiva Cunnilingus and the Helpful Husbands. Soma would be legalized, regulated and available in red, white and a dessert variety. Grocery stores would offer a choice of paper, plastic or stylish messenger bag. I’d never have another headache and Craig Kilborne would be sooo fired.

But, barring that, barring the culmination of the grand plan, I’d really, really appreciate any perceptible decrease in the number of stupid bumper stickers. If you’ve got a shallow, glib, reactionary, simple-minded, or entirely implausible and ill-informed political agenda, a hare-brained social reform, or snarky punchline-oriented philosophy, do us all a favor keep it off your car, and get it off your chest—literally. There’s a time- honored way of putting your thoughts—such as they are—out there for the consuming public, one with a lesser chance of causing road rage or a bottleneck on the Patroon Island Bridge, one that causes little lasting anger and comes with a byline that looks a lot like this:

—John Rodat

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