I actually read what’s written on sweatshirts and T-shirts, and I also carefully examine the logos on apparel. They say a lot about both our culture and the wearer—likewise, bumper stickers. Some of the messages are conscious and deliberate and some are unconscious.
Anyway, many years ago I worked with a therapist a couple years older who was deeply into Transactional Analysis (TA). That’s the “Games People Play” and “I’m Ok–You’re OK” therapeutic model. Apparently who I was at that stage of my life bugged this lady because she’d take potshots at me from time to time. Perhaps she was just bitter because she was very unattractive and she knew I viewed her as such.
In TA they used to speak of what was written on one’s imaginary sweatshirt. What was written on the front was how you presented yourself to the world. And then what was written on the back was how you left folks. Penny said my sweatshirt announced, “Turn me on.” And on the back it said, “I knew you couldn’t.” I realized it was a put-down, but sadly, also insightful and funny. I took it to heart. Though, that was not Penny’s intention, I think God was telling me something. This was circa 1971, and I realize that while I’ve become a more mature and kinder person part of that message probably still has some validity.
Memorable bumper stickers:
Possibly the cleverest ever was spied by me many years ago on I-75 in Tennessee. I’m a fairly slow, safe driver. If I pass someone on the Interstate it’s likely because they are driving really, really slow. I tend to chug along in the right lane a respectful distance from the car ahead of me. I do this because there are fewer decisions to make and also it gives me more of an opportunity to look at the scenery and daydream. Generally, if they slow down, I slow down. This used to drive my wife crazy. . . but that’s another story.
Anyway, its circa 1981 and I’m chugging on up I-75 for my annual August vacation to visit family up North, and I gradually creep up on an old beater of a Pontiac going barely 55. As I pass him I notice on the left rear bumper: “Speed on Brother, Hell ain’t half full.”
It was funny and in a way terribly profound. I’ve never seen another with the same message.
The next best one was flat out hysterical and also unique. I’m going thru a Mickey D’s drive thru in Sanford. Central Floridians will best grasp the significance of that. Anyway, on the rear bumper of the pickup ahead of me: “I was going to work today. . . but the voices told me to stay home and clean my gun.”
I could barely keep my Happy Meal down from snorting the Diet Coke.
And then there is the one heading this article. Yes, that’s me circa 1972 holding the bumper sticker that reads: “Support Mental Health. . . or I’ll Kill You” I never actually put that one on my car. It was too good and so it was stuck to my bulletin board in my office at the Illinois Dept of Mental Health in Rockford. I have no idea what happened to it—somebody likely filched it.
Back in the early-90s I worked at a Devereux clinic. Our clients were largely Medicaid kids from poor families. Those who weren’t black or Hispanic were white rednecks. One of the mother’s that I worked with won a shock-jock’s radio station’s “Big Butt” contest. Well, it was something that set her apart from the crowd and she (sadly) was rather proud of this distinction.
There was another redneck woman who dutifully brought her two young children to their counseling appt every week. They weren’t my clients so I didn’t know their story, but many of our kids were victims of abuse and neglect—but mostly just kids of adults with the lowest common denominator in values and parenting skills. On this mother’s back bumper were two signs: “I may be a mean, evil bitch. . . but at least I’m good at it.” and on the other side of the bumper: “I’d slap you. . . but shit splatters.”
Even as cynical as I was at that stage of my life those messages left me immeasurably sad, and I will forever be haunted wondering who those two kids grew up to be.