Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Sticker Parade

Back in the 80s it was common to see bumper stickers that read, “I [something].” That something might be a pet, an activity of some sort, a location, or a sports team. I mentioned in a previous post the humor I found in a ploy on this sticker that read, “I my dog.” (It might have been an ad for a veterinarian.)

Another popular sticker in those days read, “I’d rather be [doing some activity].” It might be wind surfing, rock climbing, motorcycle riding, sailing, horse riding, hiking, cycling, or some such activity. One I saw read, “I’d rather be doing genealogy.” Another common theme was, “I’d rather be in [some location].”

Some found these advertisements of what people were fond of or what they’d rather be doing to be tedious or obnoxious. I once saw a sticker that read, “I don’t care what kind of pet you have, what you love, where you’d rather be, or what you’d rather be doing.” I occasionally heard the comment that if people would rather be somewhere else or doing something else they should just go there and do it without pestering the rest of us about it.

Times have changed and so have personalized automobile decorations. In recent years I have noted a dramatic increase in cutouts made of white tape showing a family’s configuration. These are usually placed in the rear or rear side windows of vehicles. Most of these stickers show family members in order of age and by proportionate size. Most show the sex of each family member.

Some of these family stickers include the names of family members. Some show the family’s surname. Frankly, I have privacy issues with doing stuff like this. Do I really want everybody that looks at my car to know my kids’ names or even how my family is arranged? There are enough strange folks around to make me uncomfortable with turning my vehicle into a traveling billboard showing this kind of personal information.

When these family configuration stickers first appeared, most of them depicted fairly simple stick figures. That has changed over time until there is now such a broad variety of shapes, sizes, hair and clothing styles, positions, etc, to provide a very distinctive customization. I have seen a van around town that has a Boy Scout symbol on the license plate. The father and the sons depicted in the family stickers on the van are dressed in Scout uniforms.

Some people get carried away. An older couple I know has covered the whole rear driver side window of their van with figures representing themselves, their children, children-in-law, and grandchildren, along with all of the extended family’s associated pets. Some stickers are more casual. Yesterday I followed a car that simply showed a pair of flip-flops of various sizes; one pair for each family member.

Besides privacy concerns, I also wonder about putting something static on a vehicle when families are dynamic. Maybe it’s OK if you keep your cars for only two or three years. We tend to keep our vehicles much longer. Although we average about a decade for a vehicle, we have a van that is 17 years old. You might put stickers on your car showing the baby in diapers and the eight-year-old with a crew cut. Four years later, the kids look a lot different. 17 years later, the whole family looks very different.

Another sticker phenomenon I see in the area where I live is huge flashy words and symbols in the rear windows of tricked out 4WD trucks driven by guys in their 20s or 30s. These trucks are usually jacked up high and decked with lots of extra chrome. They’ve got stylish rims and beefy looking tires that will likely never leave the pavement.

The stickers on these fancy muscle trucks either depict some kind of skull design or near pornographic silhouettes of slutty females. (Women only look like that in real life after surgical enhancement.) My oldest son dismisses these guys, saying, “They’re trying to compensate for something, if you know what I mean.”

As I said in a previous post on this subject, I derive a certain amount of entertainment value from the stickers people use to decorate their vehicles. Our family’s vehicles are unadorned and rather plain. My wife has suggested putting some kind of design item in the rear window of the cars to make them easier to spot in a parking lot. I think they are already fairly easy to spot in a parking lot. I just look for vehicles that are sticker free. There just aren’t that many.

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