For the longest time I thought the 13.1 and 26.2 oval stickers on the backs of cars were Bible verses. Then one day I was plunking down 90 bucks in a running store for my daughter’s track shoes, and the stickers were on the counter. Of course I had to ask. The zero-body fat salesperson explained that they meant a half marathon and a full marathon. Running may not be my first language, but English is.
At least I never wondered out loud why everyone was suddenly so religious, but I do have to wonder this out loud: why should I, or any of the other people with whom we may be stuck in traffic, care that you run half or whole marathons? And don’t say that you don’t care if we know, because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t have that sticker on the back of your car, where you, yourself, can almost never see it, but the rest of us always can. If you didn’t want to impress us with your athletic prowess, then your own personal badges of achievement, like your nasty black-and-blue toenails, or no toenails at all, would remain hidden on your gas pedal, out of sight unless we asked, which we didn’t, hence the stickers.
Bumper stickers of old were interactive. In the 1970s and ‘80s every political campaigner gave them out, so maybe if you were on a road trip or in a traffic jam, you could get riled up with your passengers and get a debate going to pass the time. There were a lot of “Honk If … ” stickers too, like if you loved Jesus, or disco, or Fonzi. You could also honk if disco sucked, or if you were against nukes, or Jane Fonda.
Long before Twitter, bumper stickers were sarcastic and snarky in 140 characters or less. They even contained profanities, which was audacious at the time because curse words weren’t all over the place like they are now. One of my favorites is still, “Jesus loves you. Everyone else thinks you’re an asshole.” A day hardly passes that I don’t think of that. It’s a modern proverb really, especially when a person knows I’m waiting for his/her parking space, sees me sitting there with my blinker on, but proceeds to seize the moment to catch up on texting while I wait. I thought we were best friends because you wanted me to know that you run, that you’ve been to the Outer Banks at least once, that your kids do gymnastics and play soccer, that you’re a Philles fan who went to Penn State, there’s even a Jesus fish in the mix, and yet, you leave me out here blocking traffic. Even Jesus would be done with you.
This year’s Broad Street Run sold out like a U2 concert. Excellent that everyone is so into running—even people who smoke. My runner daughter works with a smoker who also runs. This young lady says that she runs and smokes to be social. I presume she doesn’t do both at the same time, but who knows? She has a “Runner Girl” sticker on her car too. She’s wants us to know she’s in the tribe. When my best friend, Kim, and I were on a very brief yoga kick, she said the only thing that would make yoga better was smoking. She still does tree pose on my deck with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth, and then she bows and gives me a heartfelt “Namaste” from behind a cloud of smoke.
During our yogic summer, Kim and I didn’t slap “Yoga Girl” ovals on our cars, or “Smoker Girl,” or “Extra Dirty, Extra Olive, Vodka Martini Girl” for that matter. Most of us generally don’t air our dirty little vices to strangers, and it’s show-offy and boring to use your car as a mobile all-about-me billboard. If you don’t have anything interesting to say, don’t bother me while I’m driving. I’d rather know something dicey about you. I’m sure your kid has gotten in trouble in school, but I don’t see a demerit magnet next to the basketballs and dance shoes on your trunk. Now that would make me laugh and honk, while I happily let you merge into my lane.