Bumper to Bumper, to a Point

Originally Published: October 27, 2004

The ample hind end of the SUV is thrumming above my car, its taillights blazing, its license plate vibrating in rage. The glinting Bush/Cheney ‘04 bumper sticker is placed with precision on the rear window, somewhat to the right of the huge American flag decal, which, I muse, must impede the driver’s view despite the vast tracts of glass that cover the lower forty of his vehicle. When the light turns green, the SUV thunders off, the blackened exhaust pipe waggling at me like a tutting finger.

 Here at this traffic signal, almost touching for a moment in time, were two drivers in two automobiles, each idling impatiently on opposite ends of the current political roadway, each waiting for that green light. He in his late model SUV, I in my brand new Toyota Prius, with its gas conserving, zero-emissions Hybrid engine. I have two Kerry/Edwards ’04 stickers on my rear window – one in English and one in Spanish -and I feel so smug I could just about die.  However, nose to ass in traffic as we were, (his ass, my nose), the SUV driver couldn’t even see me - or my bumper stickers for that matter - so I was entirely alone in my compare-and -contrast-the-following-characters moment. His opinions were in my face, and mine, invisible to him, were tattooed on my rear end. With no cars behind me, my stickers were mute, crying out to no one. 

It is very irritating to be so ignored. How much more obvious can I be? Should I have pulled around his massive vehicle, cutting in front of him to show off my Kerry/Edwards stickered, Prius-driving rebuttal? Perhaps I should consider putting on more bumper stickers, papering the front and back so I can catch ‘em all coming and going. Hey! I’m a liberal! A tree-hugger! Pro-family, pro-choice! I support separation of church and state! I believe in the Geneva Convention! War is not the Answer! Send W back to Texas! Jon Stewart for President! I heart the French! Come and get me, you! Wouldn’t that be great?

But, well, my Prius is really new - still has the dealer plates in fact, and bumper stickers can be such a challenge to remove. I placed the Kerry/Edwards stickers on the glass rather than the bumper itself. Just a precaution – they don’t call them stickers for nothing. I’m a committed Democrat, but when the time comes – a respectful amount of time after November 2nd of course - I imagine it’ll be easier to peel the stickers off glass than off bumper. Did I mention I had to wait six months for this baby? The color wasn’t my first choice, and the package was more expensive than I’d wanted, but what are you gonna do – I mean after six months, you’ll take what they give you. Can you believe I’ve only bought gas twice? She’s still squeaky clean. Heck, I don’t even let the dogs ride in her yet. No sir, the old van’s good enough for those hounds, them and their muddy, muddy sharp-clawed paws, their anal excretions, their stinky ear infections and their ever-shedding coats. 

Where was I? Oh sure, being a Democrat with less than a week to go until the elections. Five days. Four. Wait - three and counting. But at least it’ll be over soon. Or not. I think I need to go for a long (guilt-free!) drive.

I live in Arlington, Virginia, just a few efficient, non-polluting miles in the HOV lane to downtown Washington DC. Right in the middle of the action. Though, I guess the action is really in places like Ohio and Minnesota and Florida these days. Actually, here inside the beltway, we’re pretty lonely. When you’re a zillion percent democratic, both sides just leave you alone. In Arlington, too, we tend to be mostly democratic, although our little street of just 4 houses is fifty-fifty come election time. And right over the border, in wealthy McLean, it’s pure Bush Country. So things are not as tied up as they might be. 

In an effort to keep a finger on the pulse of the local voter, I’ve set myself to observing what seems to me to be a record number of election-related bumper stickers in the last few weeks. Here are some of my entirely unbiased, scientific observations: 

The bigger the SUV, the more prominent the Bush/Cheney ’04 sticker. 

A Bush/Cheney ’04 bumper sticker guarantees there will be an unyielding expression of bitterness on the driver’s face. You can catch a glimpse of it through the tinted glass as he tailgates you.

He who sports an NRA sticker will also display a Bush/Cheney sticker.

Hybrids are incompatible with Bush/Cheney stickers.

Vehicles with Bush/Cheney stickers rarely have a decal from an accredited University. 

Vehicles with Bush/Cheney stickers always look mean and aggressive. Something about the grill looking like gritted teeth and the headlights like angry eyes.

The driver of a vehicle with a Kerry/Edwards sticker is invariably more likely to let you merge than the driver of a vehicle with a Bush/Cheney sticker.

Humorous bumper stickers on vehicles that also bear Kerry/Edwards stickers are wittier and possess greater subtlety than those on Bush/Cheney vehicles.

Vehicles that have “Firefighters for Kerry/Edwards” bumper stickers have hotter drivers than those bearing “FF4Bush” bumper stickers.

School parking lots are like a Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker clearinghouse. 


And as far as the political lawn declarations go, my son claims that in his keen study during the school bus trip across the heartland of Arlington, the Bush/Cheney signs tend to be installed on ruthlessly neat, trim lawns - lawns that have clearly had their maintenance outsourced to a gardening service. The Kerry/Edwards lawns are unkempt and scruffy, in an endearing, patriotic, hometown sort of way.

All this rigorous, nonpartisan observation aside, in a few days these signs and bumper stickers will be yesterday’s news. Soon, they’ll be peeled away to make room for the inevitable, “Don’t blame me, I voted Democratic/Republican” stickers - that incidentally will also serve to cover any residual glue the vehicle owner couldn’t get off from their previous sticker. 

Winners tend to leave their bumper stickers on for a long while, just to make sure other drivers associate them with the winning side, the side from which history will be written. The losers sadly scrape away the once hopeful name of their candidate, too depressed to face the knowledge that four more years will pass before another chance is given their side. 

So it’s the losers who first learn the tricks of safe bumper sticker removal.

When the time comes, after I’ve finished a few months of gloating to the drivers around me, it’ll be time to remove my Kerry/Edwards stickers. I guess I’ll have to find a willing Republican to show me how. 

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