I was waiting at a stoplight today and happened to look in my rearview mirror to see an older small truck pull up behind me. The truck was in need of work on its exhaust system. There was an elderly guy driving, a bit disheveled-looking and flipping me off.
Just a quick flip, both hands draped over the top of the steering wheel, and a flash, yet well-defined protruding right middle finger quickly gestured my way.
Had I done something discourteous like cutting him off? No. I had been sitting at the light for a good ten seconds before he pulled up. I had my turn signal on… I was just waiting for the light. Then it hit me: my bumper stickers.
I have three stickers on my rig. (It’s a small truck, but a rig nonetheless, dammit, and that means something out here in the land of rigs and male facial hair.) I have a bumper sticker that reads “Free Tibet”. You know the one. I have another that advises “Don’t believe everything you think.” And on the back window I have a Loomis “Fear No Fish” decal. Which one do you think he found objectionable?
I like to joke about my choice of ideology markers. The “Free Tibet” sticker indicates that I am indeed a hippy leftist who would like to see a country liberated from oppressive pseudo-far-lefties. The “Think” sticker merely encourages intellectual rigor, and believe me, I realize that posting such a message means that I had better damn well follow suit. However, I am aware that others may find it an affront. And for those people, I have the fishing decal. I hope that they come away confused: a guy with a ponytail down to the middle of his back likes to fish? Hopefully this returns their minds to the “Think” sticker and activates a recess. Hey, it’s my fantasy.
Overall, I’d say that my stickers are not flip-worthy. I do not see myself as a necessarily confrontational or vociferous ideologue. But who am I to say?
The Dear Wife’s car is another matter. The “Fuck Yeah” t-shirt she bought me is a strong clue. (Oh, I wore it, so maybe I am confrontational, if a bit passive-aggressive.) Her rear windows have, over the course of the last couple of years, carried various proclamations: “The nation stands with Cindy” ( Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq and a vocal opponent to the war); a sticker and an 8.5” x 11” piece of paper that refer to national health care; and the capper, “Fight terrorism. Impeach Bush and Cheney.”
I am somewhat surprised that the car has not been keyed, yet relieved that there has been no physical response whatsoever to her pronouncements. That does not mean that there has been no response. One summer day during the Cindy Sheehan controversy, the DW was sitting in traffic and a man and woman pulled up alongside. The guy, from the driver’s seat, started screaming at my wife, “NO WE DON’T! NO WE DON’T!” Other words trailed away as the light changed and she let him move ahead of her in traffic.
On occasion I have had to use DW’s car for errands. One memorable moment was again at a stoplight. A huge diesel 350 pulled up behind me. Inside that truck sat two equally big men. In the rearview mirror I saw the one in the passenger seat point at our car and say something as both shook their heads. My literary mind had me forced over to the side of the road and dealt with. Fortunately, I only have an active imagination.
As I had today in my rig, I might have experienced a moment of confusion when seeing these two burley guys reacting to my rear window, had I not previously experienced hostility while driving her car. I was on I-5 driving north to Portland when I noticed a small red truck behind me. The driver was flipping me off with both hands, repeatedly and continued to do so for at least a mile. Again, I wondered if I had been vehicularly negligent or impolite. I am a very good driver, defensive and considerate. Yet, I could have lapsed. Then it occurred to me: the “Fight terrorism” sticker. After another mile or so, the guy sped past, right hand a-flailing its middle finger. I gladly gave him some distance for the remainder of my trip.
I refer to my rig as the Hippy Truck and her vehicle as the Lefty Car. When I go to the feed store, I usually take my truck, and I tell the young man who goes out to the warehouse to fetch the 100 or 150 pounds of organic layer pellets to “put it in the back of the hippy rig out there.” He always chuckles. This week my rig has been in the shop (another story), and we needed animal feed, so I took DW’s ride. The young man wasn’t around, so the woman who co-owns the store went out to the warehouse. I met her outside and said, “Normally I tell your worker to put it in the hippy rig; but today I have the Lefty Car.” She chuckled.
We’ve done business with these people for years. Both she and her husband will kick the dirt and chat a while, and today was no different. Even though I’ve seen the back end of their rig with a fish and a “W” sticker on it, and there is religious music playing over loudspeakers in the store, I began to tell the tales of reactions to DW’s stickers. When I asked if she could believe such strong sentiments, she responded, “The same thing has happened to me. I’ve been flipped off and yelled at as well.”
We then talked about divisiveness and how it is tearing our country apart. We agreed with each other.