Saturday, December 3, 2022
December 3, 2022

Decoding the lexicon of island bumper stickers

Anybody who has even the slightest intimate knowledge of Salt Spring Island knows that our little isle lies smack dab in the centre of the bumper sticker universe. 

You can probably find more bumper stickers here than plankton in a fair size tidal pool. Whoever once pegged Salt Spring as an argument surrounded by water could easily have derived the idea by observing the sentiments professed on the rear ends of island vehicles. Perhaps second only to the belief in whacky conspiracy theories, Salt Spring leads the nation in the use and exhibit of bumper stickers. 

We are known for wearing our feelings and emotions on our sleeves and can double down by displaying our opinions and allegiances on the bumpers of our cars and trucks. The visual expressions of these sentiments stuck snugly to a ton of moving metal puts an exclamation point on any particular viewpoint or belief.

Bumper stickers come in many different flavours. There are political ones, such as DON’T BLAME ME, I VOTED GREEN or on the other side of the spectrum, I THOUGHT SOCIALISM MADE SENSE, BUT THEN I TURNED 9. You will most assuredly see social commentary ones that may read PRIDE or maybe COMPULSIVE, NEUROTIC, ANTI-SOCIAL, MANIC AND PARANOID, BUT BASICALLY NORMAL.

My dear wife was annoyed by all the speedy drivers sharing the road and so she designed a bumper sticker that read ISLAND LIVING – NICE & EASY. Unfortunately, the wind, snow and rain wore away at the sticker and eventually the edges frayed off to the point that it now says SLAND LIVING –NIC. We now get a lot of weird looks from drivers passing us on the highway. I’ve seen a similar result occur to an environmental bumper sticker that used to proclaim STOP OLD GROWTH LOGGING but took on a whole new meaning after weathering had reduced the message to STOP OLD GROWTH.

My favourite bumper stickers are the ones that are both funny and clever. Sometimes they play off a certain word or phrase. Three examples that have a little fun with “peace” are VISUALIZE WHIRLED PEAS and PEAS ON EARTH and then again GIVE PEAS A CHANCE. Another of my faves is THE FACT THAT NO ONE UNDERSTANDS YOU DOESN’T MEAN THAT YOU’RE AN ARTIST. One that spoofs the ubiquitous BABY ON BOARD is the slightly sarcastic ADULTS ON BOARD. WE WANT TO LIVE TOO.

Some bumper stickers are just plain mean and nasty. I’ve seen one that said IF I WANTED YOUR OPINION, I’D GIVE YOU ONE. On the same theme, there’s another that goes IF I WANTED YOUR OPINION, I’D BEAT IT OUT OF YOU. Probably the most disgusting one I’ve witnessed is IF YOU LOVE SOMETHING, SET IT FREE. IF IT DOESN’T COME BACK, HUNT IT DOWN AND KILL IT. You definitely don’t want to get into a fender bender with the driver of that vehicle.

Of course, it won’t matter much what your bumper sticker message says, if it is unreadable because you did such a terrible job pasting it to your vehicle. The last thing you want is for the sticker to wrinkle while you are pressing it to the metal of your vehicle. Naturally, the first thing it wants to do as soon as you peel off the backing paper is stick to your fingers, or more preferably, your eyelids. At the very instant that your bumper sticker is stuck to both itself and to you, that’s when you realize you should have cleaned the dirt off the surface where you were planning to put it.

If you can get a fair deal on a good quantity and variety of bumper stickers from your local thrift store or printing shop that is going out of business, you might consider saving the considerable expense of repainting your vehicle, and instead plastering the entire exterior with clever messages like HONK IF YOU HATE BROCCOLI or maybe HONK IF YOU LOVE HONKING. With a bit of creativity, your car may end up looking like something Pablo Picasso would have driven while he was still in his Cubist stage.

There must be a special niche for bumper stickers that refer specifically to Salt Spring Island. How about THIS IS A NUCLEAR FAMILY FREE ZONE? Who is going to tailgate you if your bumper announces I BRAKE FOR FIR CONES? If you want to get a little risqué, you could try I DO IT IN LOTUS POSITION. There’s no telling what reaction you would get if you displayed a HONK IF YOU LOVE BUREAUCRACY sticker off your rear end. A bumper that sports THIS IS NOT JUST MY CAR; IT’S MY DUPLEX might just be conveying a sign of our times here on the rock.

Would it be too much of a stretch to consider that perhaps bumper stickers are not here to amuse and inform us but they are our vehicles’ way of communicating with each other? We may think that car horns, turn signals and headlight dimmers are there for human interaction, but what if their primary purpose was to let our vehicles get along with each other while cruising down the road. 

By the same token, bumper stickers saying IF YOU CAN READ THIS, YOU ARE TAILGATING or alternately BACK OFF, BOZO are displaying two different ways to deliver the same message. JUST A WARNING: MY TRANSMISSION SOMETIMES WILLS ITSELF INTO REVERSE can have a similar effect on close following traffic.

Nobody asked me, but maybe we all could streamline our idle chatter conversations by affixing appropriate stickers to our own body bums . . . er . . . pers. Acting much like lapel buttons, but with so much room for expression (at least mine does), we could convey our thoughts and feelings to one another without having to waste valuable oxygen or risk pandemic infection by venturing inside social distancing recommendations. What would my “go to” bum-per sticker say? I BRAKE FOR CINNAMON BUNS.

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