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May 08, 2006

Only One Bumper Sticker

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Only once did I ever put a bumper sticker on a car of mine.

I'm talking about political or slogan stickers, not the kind you need for parking or other identification purposes.

And I did it when both I and the bumper sticker phenomenon were young. The fall of 1960, if you want to know. It was during the presidential campaign that year and I was gung-ho JFK. Cast my first vote for him a few days after I turned 21.

Along with campaign buttons, I scooped up a bumper sticker and slapped it on the family's 1951 Pontiac, the car I normally got to drive. My father wasn't especially amused, having voted for a Democrat in a presidential election only in 1936. But he tolerated my whim; after all, he didn't often drive the Pontiac (he drove a 1956 DeSoto) and so wouldn't have been seen as endorsing Kennedy.

The bad part came after the election when it was time to remove the sticker. I discovered that it didn't peel off cleanly. In fact, I couldn't remove it completely; forever after there were bits of sticker clinging to the right-rear bumper area.

Perhaps there was an effective way to remove the things, but I didn't know it: still don't. Maybe they've improved the stickum since 1960 and modern bumper stickers peel off like old Band-Aids, for all I know. That doesn't matter to me because I've never attached a bumper sticker since.

Why? At first it was because of my sticker-removal experience. In recent years I worry that my car will be damaged by folks who don't like my politics (I drive to Seattle a lot). Mostly, I've come to the opinion that bumper stickers are kinda silly and don't enhance the appearance of a car.

Still, if I could rent space on my car to advertisers like they do in NASCAR and Formula 1....



posted by Donald at May 8, 2006


My dad wouldn't ever let us consider putting bumper stickers on cars for the same reason---the stick-'em was so hard to remove, and he also thought they junked up the look of the car. I've never forgotten that, and never attached one to a car. But I do think they now have those magnetized type stickers---like a lot of the ones that say "we support our troops"---they don't have glue on the back.

Posted by: annette on May 8, 2006 7:42 PM

I like my beliefs to be easily removable.

Posted by: onetwothree on May 8, 2006 7:54 PM

Those magnetized ribbons that Annette mentioned seem to be proliferating like crazy. The original "support the troops" and "God bless America" ones have now been joined by those promoting just about any charitable or moral cause imaginable. I thought they'd soon become passe - remember those "Baby on Board" triangles from some years back - but they seem to be going on and on.

Posted by: Peter on May 8, 2006 8:48 PM

Two words: Goo Gone. You can get it just about anywhere that has a cleaning aisle. Librarians use it to remove "new arrival" stickers from books, and it works on any kind of sticker without damaging anything tougher than paper.

Posted by: nushustu on May 8, 2006 9:03 PM

I would feel naked without my NRA sticker, but I get the most commentary from the "What Would Ernest Tubb Have Done?" sticker.

Appearance??? Oh yeah, you're a car guy...

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on May 8, 2006 9:33 PM

Yeah, Goo Gone will set your sticker free. It's good stuff but whatever you're removing has to just about be soaked in it and that leaves an oily residue to clean up.

They're probably not a good idea. There's always some nut who will be enraged by your slogan, however innocuous, and feel the need to leave a "message" for you on (or in) your car.

Only one bumper sticker ever made me laugh: "Horn Broke - watch for finger."

Posted by: Flutist on May 8, 2006 10:00 PM

i have no sticker now, but back in the day my college roomate and I competed for original and/or doctored stickers. He had "Dont mess with Taxes" and "Officer, will this sticker saying 'support child molestation' keep you from giving me a ticket?" and (from those Carl's Jr. ones, remember?) "mate me". I had, "If you must drink and drive, drink acetone", and "If you can read this, you're driving too close, or standing in a parking lot." There were many others that came and went.

Posted by: J. Goard on May 9, 2006 3:19 AM

It's amazing anyone would want to pollute their vehicle with such trash as a bumper sticker.

Posted by: . on May 9, 2006 7:36 AM

In a similar vein, I've never bought a car from a dealership that puts a permanent imprint of its name on the cars it sells. I would consider it only if the dealership paid me an advertising fee in return.

Posted by: beloml on May 9, 2006 8:51 AM

I prefer more subtle ways of making a point, like GPS-guided missiles with the message "War is not healthy for terrorists and other formerly living things."

Posted by: Rick Darby on May 9, 2006 8:54 AM

rivetingly interesting post

Posted by: visitor on May 9, 2006 9:01 AM

Not a bumper sticker guy - we have 2 on the minivan - bith from disney world - they are magnets so no clean up issue

My favorite of all time - Don't Drink and Drive, you may hit a bump and spill your beer, Drink Then Drive.

Posted by: kevin on May 9, 2006 10:21 AM

I can relate to the comment about fearing that your car might be vandalized for having a sticker with the "wrong" political comment on it (Seattle).

It burns me up that the very folks who call themselves liberals, or progressives, practice - and get away with - this form of thuggish intimidation!

Posted by: ricpic on May 9, 2006 10:53 AM

I've not tried (or previously heard of) Goo Gone, but lighter fluid is a pretty good solvent for most sticker adhesives. Disclaimer: I have no idea what it might do to clear coat. FWIW, it works fine on stickers on hard plastic. You probably want to wash the bumper with a detergent to remove the hydrocarbon residue afterwards.

(This advice intended for people other than Donald, of course, since he seems to have additional reasons not to put stickers on his cars.)

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on May 9, 2006 11:47 AM

I've always say wearing t-shirts with Armani Xchange or Gucci written across in huge letters is to be a loser for providing free advertizing.
Besides other things.

Posted by: Tatyana on May 9, 2006 12:32 PM

We still have a Gore/Leiberman sticker on the family wagon, mostly due to the difficulty of getting it off cleanly. A few months ago while we were in the local Home Depot, someone slapped a Bush sticker on our car. It didn't come off easily, let me tell you. That Bush is one sticky mofo.

Posted by: the patriarch on May 9, 2006 1:25 PM

I did enjoy one I saw that said "I Rise From the Grave to Seek the Flesh of the Living - And I Vote!"

But I have none on my cars, and have long refused to wear any clothing with slogans, brand names, or funny sayings on them.

Posted by: Derek Lowe on May 9, 2006 3:41 PM

One of my all-time favorites: "WARNING: I SPEED UP TO RUN OVER SMALL ANIMALS".

I have a cool "ANGLOSPHERE" bumper sticker that my friend Lex had made. However, where I live I think it would be misunderstood as some kind of anti-Hispanic thing, so I never stuck it on my car.

Posted by: Jonathan on May 10, 2006 6:48 AM

In Florida recently at the Dali Museum (recommended), my husband picked up a bumper sticker that says "Get Surreal," which delighted him. It's going on his car, though, not mine. Never have, never will put a bumper sticker on my car, and I'm kind of resenting the fact that in order to get car-pool lane access in my new Prius, the state will require me to put several stickers on, not only on the bumper but on the right rear panel as well. Yuck.

Posted by: missgrundy on May 11, 2006 11:28 AM

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