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Bumper Cars 

Be forewarned: getting this column together was more difficult than it would have been say, 10 or 20 years ago.

Back then people believed in the power of the bumper sticker, the future of the bumper sticker. It was guerilla messengering then, a word or two to the wise about the folly of the Establishment and its inevitable fall. It was mobile graffiti, wiseass on the wing.

But something happened to the bumper sticker. They must have become nouveau gauche because it has become increasingly difficult to find bumpers which have been stuck in ways that are clever -- or even stupid. Most of those I've seen lately are confined to versions of the American flag and an unbelievable number of those "My child is an honor roll student at _____." It raises a simple question. How can we simultaneously have so many children on the honor rolls and yet score on the par with a blowfly on the standardized tests? It suggests that just maybe bumper stickers may sometimes skirt the truth.

There are, of course, still plenty of bumper stickers which identify the owners of the car as unionists, veterans, religionists and proud parents. And plenty more announcing where we've been and what we want people to believe we believe in. But what I like are those that speak to how we'd like things to be and how it is that they're not.

Smile. It's the 2nd best thing you can do with your lips. Or: My kid mops the floor at Wal-Mart. Or even: Peace in the Middle East. Just kidding.

A large number of the bumper stickers I have spotted lately have to do with the actual driving of cars, especially as regards the proximity of other cars and the manners of those who drive them. In this category would fall: Your honking has shown me the error of my ways. And: Horn is broken. Watch for finger. A bit friendlier and more helpful was: Don't follow me -- I just left Nick's Bar -- 2400 Tulane Avenue. Along these lines is: I brake for trains.

Some bumper stickers are done in smaller print, and this is intentional. An example of this type would be: Not so close -- I'm not that kind of car. A less-charming version of the same truth was: If you can read this, I can hit my brakes AND SUE YOU!

There are some among us who are not daunted by the possibility of meeting Morris Bart or Stephen Rue in a courtroom. There are bumper stickers designed for us, too: I don't need your attitude. I've got one of my own. And: I'm not in the mood to be stared at. Or even: Is there an afterlife? Mess with this truck and find out.

Some bumper stickers seem to be car-specific or at least car-category specific. Like I saw this one on a Toyota Ravi: Elvis is dead. Get over it. Now I'd bet you wouldn't see that one on the back of a Ford F150 or a Jimmy Truck. On one of the latter, I did spot a sticker which complained: Nobody knows I'm Elvis.

On the small-world side of things, the sticker on a Toyota Corolla claimed: All my other cars are 1/25 scale. And just guess what make sported: Volkswagens don't leak oil. They mark their spot.

On the side of those vehicles whose seating capacity equals that of a mid-sized restaurant, we have the following: Yes, this is my truck. No, I will not help you move, as well as the more sinister: It's 11 p.m. Do you know where your .45 is?

Another fun sub-category is the sticker that takes another cultural reference and makes it its own. Take this Bacchic twist given to the old Army recruitment slogan: College: We drink more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day. (Those hip Marines did their own twisting of an ad slogan: When it absolutely positively has to be destroyed overnight.) Speaking of college, this sticker was spotted in the parking lot of a university, which is where most young adults first become acutely aware of the stupidity of others: Too bad ignorance isn't ... PAINFUL.

Other stickers are echoes and mirrors of the Current American Middle Mind (CAMM), that mushy intellectualism of Starbucks regulars: Cannibalism is the highest form of intimacy and License parents not dogs.

In the interest of fairness, I should note that not all dog references were positive ones. On the back of a United Cab, I saw this: Life begins when the kids move out and the dog dies.

Cross-gender combat being what it is, there's no shortage of bumper weariness with the opposite sex: My favorite fantasy. Two men. One cooking. One cleaning. And: A woman's place is in everything. And: I live with fear everyday. And some days she lets me go fishing. And finally: Eve was framed. (An interesting spin on the first book of the Bible and one that warrants consideration. Did the Paradise PD have a homicide detective named Furman?)

Being poor inspires stickers -- ones you'll never see affixed to a Jag or Beamer: I started out with nothing. And I have most of it left. And: I tried to get a life. But I couldn't afford one. And finally: Will be President for food. (Admirable. To aim high when low.)

Those special loafers, fisherman and golfers, have their own. Work is for people who don't fish and I'd rather be driving a Titleist. (This is one of many "I'd rather be ..." and includes fishing, Cajun dancing and attending the opera. This adds up to a whole bunch of people who would prefer to be doing anything else but driving. It may be the original source of road rage.)

This being where we are, politics must be noted: Nobody for mayor, Keep the jive alive: Elect Ernie K-Doe mayor, and Vote for the dead guy. It's important.

Permit me to close with some personal favorites. This one had a little logo of a can of lager on it and read: Beer. Helping White People Dance Since 1837. Then there was: Drop your pants at Arabi Cleaners. And: Why do you call me psycho as if there was something wrong with it?

Didn't like that one? Well then: Support Search and Rescue. Get Lost.

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