By on May 8, 2010

“Studies show that stating “studies show” will increase your chances of winning an argument.” That’s just one of 63 bumper stickers adorning a 2005 Prius, on scifi, the cosmos, numbers, philosophy, and political sentiments that cleverly question the status quo.

The owner is Amy Sutherland, a middle school history teacher who now home schools her youngest. The Prius, the family’s only car notwithstanding, the Sutherlands prefer to walk and take transit when possible, which in Cambridge, Massachusetts is most of the time, and on those odd occasions when two cars are needed, Hubby drives a Zipcar. Truth be told, Amy Sutherland doesn’t particularly like cars, not even the Prius. It’s a necessity, and one she’s not the least interested in fetishizing, unlike those nuts in Hollywood (and unlike a certain ICE-smoking automotive scribe).

In fact, for Amy, the bumper stickers are an antidote to materialism. No car is too good to be covered in whimsy. She’s not going to obsess about the paint–although she did apologize for the yellow pollen that had speckled it in the three days since its last wash. But the original motivation for the bumper stickers was easy identification. She got the idea shortly after she acquired the Prius, when she found it in the Whole Foods parking lot–where I first saw it–surrounded by two other silver Priuses.

The bumper stickers have made life richer. Amy has gained an appreciation for the nature of coincidence from being seen all over town by friends while driving this rolling tribute to irrational numbers and imaginary numbers and Pluto the ninth planet. I spotted the car twice after I first saw it, which is how I met her. Because of this, she realized coincidences are always waiting to happen, as people who know each other pass each other constantly, but most of the time they simply don’t see each other. And it’s true. (I once wrote about this phenomenon.) Once you understand that, there’s really nothing mysterious about coincidence.

The other thing was, Amy worried that the bumper stickers might attract haters. She gets little notes on the car all the time, almost always expressing someone’s love for her car. Once someone left a note with a tea bag, saying that it was one of their last two bags of their favorite tea, and she wanted the Prius’s owner to have it. Amy took the tea bag home, and made tea, and she thinks it was that tea that banished the migraine. In any case, it was wonderful tea.

In the five years, she’s never heard anything but nice. It might be different in a red state, but I doubt it. She seems enchanted–Glinda the Good Witch comes to mind–and she radiates such abundant positive vibes that in her presence you feel as if you’ve gone back to some childhood fantasyland where everything ends up happily ever after. She’s the sort of person you’d want, well, for your child’s teacher–and there’s simply nothing about her or her bumper stickers that a hater could hang onto.

Oh, sure, plenty of Americans hate President Obama (the subject of three bumper stickers), and the livestock lobby might feel threatened by a vegan chick, heaven forfend! But a hater would be stymied by the mix of pi, space exploration, a benevolent, science-minded deity, and Dumbledore. And they would depart in such confusion that they might well stumble into a Buddhist monastery where they would be transformed, like the Grinch in the aftermath of his theft of the toys, when he heard the Whos singing down in Whoville, and realized that Christmas couldn’t be stolen, and so joined them in celebration. At least, after my visit with Amy, that doesn’t seem farfetched.

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50 Comments on “Behind The Bumper Stickers...”


  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Are there still anti flaming policies governing comments on this website? I hope so.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    Be rational!

  • avatar
    Areitu

    All I have is a Burning Man 09 bumper sticker and another for Black Rock City Solar. No notes yet!

    Is there a bigger version of the first picture you can post? I’d like to see what some of the other ones say. The only really visible stickers are the ones in the second picture, which will already have incited unpleasant feelings in some of the B&B.

  • avatar
    dastanley

    Although bumper stickers are not my thing, people like Amy can be fun. Heck, it makes the day a little more interesting to see cars like hers.

    • 0 avatar
      dastanley

      Oh yeah, my personal favorites (from the 80s):

      This one was actually a tag on the front of a vehicle: “Drive like hell, you’ll get there!”, complete with cartoon of a redneck with confederate flags and a pickup.

      And the all time classic: “I’m so horny, even the crack of dawn looks good.”

    • 0 avatar
      dastanley

      This was a “bumper sticker” on the front window of a Chinese restaurant in Phoenix around 2003 or so:

      “Confucius give wife grand piano. Wise man give wife pipe organ.”

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Actually, MikeAR, that’s not quite what David said. He might even agree that certain Red State bumper stickers showing up in Cambridge would likely meet with a bit of a rude welcome. Seems there are people all over ready to fly off at any moment. Makes life kind of unpleasant when so many take themselves so seriously.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    Since this is a relatively new car, it will have been painted with environmentally-friendly water-based paint , which is rubbish. It will need a lot of respray work done when the stickers come off.

  • avatar
    Ion

    My grade school math teacher had (I think) a Taurus like this, cept her stickers were all pro-life.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Love the politics. Boy, I’d love to have an old Chevy pickup with a piece of railroad rail as a front bumper, with her in front of me at a red light. No, I wouldn’t be able to find the brake pedal in time.

    I’ve got one bumper sticker on my truck. “Support your local Outlaws.” As in Outlaws M/C. 1%ers. Real people.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Why?

    • 0 avatar
      mpresley

      Next door, in Daytona Beach, we have “Bike Week.” Hard to put a sticker on a motor cycle, but I’ve seen a couple on helmets and t-shirts:

      “If you can read this the bitch fell off.”

      “I’d rather see my sister in a whore house than my brother on a Jap bike.”

      Bikers have a way of getting to the point.

  • avatar
    lanetru

    lol, dear fellow liberal,

    Pluto is not a planet.

  • avatar
    Highway27

    From the ones I can see, it looks like most of them are ‘positive’ messages, rather than negative messages. I think that makes a big difference in how people would react to seeing them. A sticker that says “Yay for ” without saying “People who believe are stupid / dumb / idiots” will be much better received.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    I love bumper stickers and get a kick out of reading them regardless of the politics. The Catholic Cathedral I used to go to would have side by side cars in the parking lot saying things like “Marriage is between a man and a woman” and the one saying “Who would Jesus Hate?” I loved to see the diversity in just one group of people who professed to follow the same version of Christianity.

  • avatar
    mpresley

    Some of the women I encounter like tattoos. I’ve always thought it made them look cheap, slutty (maybe a plus depending upon one’s intentions), and not really worth having or being seen with. I’m probably in the minority, but I always fall back on the old saying: You don’t put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari.

  • avatar
    UnclePete

    I worked in the PRC (People’s Republic of Cambridge) for a time… so I’m not surprised by CV of this person at all.

    My own automotive OCD abhors stickers on cars. Ugh.

  • avatar

    Time was you’d only see this many bumper stickers on a Volvo, or maybe a Saab, but the Prius seems to be the successor to the Volvo as the yuppie/hippie-mobile of choice.

  • avatar
    50merc

    I like reading bumper stickers only if they are funny. My all time favorite is “Support Mental Health or I’ll Kill You”. The ones that express foolish idealism make my eyes roll. For example, the “Coexist” sticker that makes the letters from religious symbols (the “C” is a crescent; the “t” is a cross, etc.) A dear friend has one on her car. My unspoken reaction is always: why ask ME to coexist? I’m not the one running around beheading infidels or hanging teenage homosexuals or murdering women for the sake of “honor”. Why don’t you take that message to Tehran or Riyadh, where it’s needed?

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      Reminds me of this one, seen years ago:

      “I’m schizophrenic, and so am I”

      And during the time when Andy Griffith was in Ritz cracker tv commercials:

      “Tits on a Ritz – Mmm, good cracker!”

      The only one I ever had on a vehicle was the classic:

      “Bad cop, no donut”

    • 0 avatar
      mythicalprogrammer

      Coexist – maybe your friend isn’t asking you but is making a statement. The statement could be that, that person believe in tolerance of multiple religions.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Oh, another thought. Why is a middle school teacher now home-schooling her child? Seems contradictory.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      I thought the same thing. I could care less about her stickers, some actually aren’t bad, and hey, it’s her car, she can do what she wants, but she loses points in my book for being vegan and home schooling.

      While at least she is a teacher, and she should have an idea how to craft a good education for her child, unless that child has severe disabilities that prevent a normal learning experience, the home schooling is just hypocritical. While my views on our education system could fill pages, I’ll just leave it that our public schools will never become as great as they can be as long as we keep allowing practices like home schooling and school vouchers. You can’t fix a problem by avoiding it, you have to take it head on.

      As far as the vegan thing goes, I will say I have no issue with vegetarians, but vegans are to vegetarians as the taliban is to Islam. Milk and eggs don’t hurt animals.

    • 0 avatar
      JeremyR

      Well, she’s obviously in a position to know whether the schools are any good…

    • 0 avatar
      mythicalprogrammer

      I remember reading and having the pleasure of befriending several home schooled people, and they are incredibly smart. I think home school is much more focus and advantages in the education area but lacks in the social aspect.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Another bad point about home schooling is that the child is deprived of social interaction. Even it the teaching is perfect, the lack of interaction will blunt social skill development. However, some private schools are not much better. My sister, a PhD, is seriously smart (let’s forget the common sense though) and she had a disdain for the local public school in her area. So, her kids went the the Waldorf Schools. At Waldorf, you are with the same small (24!!) group in the same building from K through 12. These kids are so sheltered from the real world it is incredible. My nephew didn’t even recognize Bugs Bunny! I called it “Belljar U.” These kids are being sent out into the real world so unprepared for life it is unbelievable. And all of her friends say the same thing about what a wonderful schooling experience this is. Ugh.

    • 0 avatar
      rcdickey

      I disagree golden. My daughter is physically handicapped but intelligent. She attended the local public school for a while when she reached school age. She figured out she could be disruptive in class and be sent to the area where the mentally handicapped were. She didn’t have to do anything or learn anything. She just played all day. Tried for two years. Finally, my wife a medical technologist quit work to home school our daughter. She researched and found a group that fit our needs. For social interaction the children in this home school group meet on Fridays for interaction with others and classes taught by parents with different skill sets and insights. The children also go on field trips together. Another friend quit nursing to homeschool her children. When her children reached the age of 12 she offered them the choice to continue or switch to public school. Her oldest switched to public so he could play football. He fit right in and didn’t have any social problems. He was never “sheltered” as you put it. He had always participated in community sports as well as things like the YMCA. Home school parents tend to care more about their children’s education than the majority of parents as a whole. In my opinion public schools went down the drain when the NEA was created.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    I generally don’t like bumper stickers, even ones whose sentiments I share. How would Amy feel about gluing one of them to good furniture or to the front of her home?

    That said, I have been tempted to make a couple of my own:
    * Back in the days of “on board” stickers – “Lead foot driver on board”
    * In response to inattentive slowpokes yapping on cell phones – “Hang up or park it!”

  • avatar

    I think it’s adorable, like a stag in rut.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Geez, first I hate cars… and now I’m fetishizing?

    And this happens on the day when my wife’s rear bumper hits the rear on a 1995 Ford Windstar.

    Wholesale damage on the Hybrid? About $300

    Wholesale damage on the Windstar? Zero. The new scratches just blended in with the old scratches.

    Look on my face when I didn’t realize that I had parked that Windstar the day before? Priceless, for a moment…. followed by a glorious soliloquy of colorful metaphors.

  • avatar
    Darrencardinal1

    I see one of these sloganeers at work all the time. Her Jeep Cherokee is festooned with bumper stickers, all representing some liberal cause or other. “The media are as liberal as the corporations that own them,” etc.

    I have often considered putting a Rush is Right or W bumper sticker on her ride just for laughs.

  • avatar

    One day, when I was leaving for lunch, a minivan pulled into the front lot at work. It had a bumper sticker, maybe from PETA, opposing animal experimentation. I couldn’t help but ask the driver if she had kids and if she’d let them die rather than use treatments developed using animals. When I got back from lunch I found out that she worked for a customer and tried to get me fired. I guess her compassion for animals was greater than that for human beings.

    Though bumper stickers on Volvos are kind of cliched, I made the turbobrick a custom sticker that said “Animal Rights Activists Are Nazis”. Hell, if “a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy” then a a Jew is a cockroach.

    Speaking of cliches. I’m sure she’s a nice lady in many ways, but the Prius driver is so cliched that I first thought that David was writing satire. I wonder what she’d say if she was stuck at a light behind my son’s Toyota. On his bumper it says, “I’ll Keep My Guns, My Freedom and My Money – You Keep The Change”.

    Since I run a small embroidery shop, I can pretty much put whatever I want to on apparel (shameless plug: I’ve done some pretty cool embroidery designs of enthusiast cars and motorcycles, so if you’d like your car on your clothes or want some custom work done on upholstery or floor mats, need logo apparel etc. let me know – http://www.autothreads.com /plug). One day while out on my bike, I got passed by a Prius whose rear end was plastered with left wing and environmentalist stickers. When I got home, I took a blank bike jersey of mine and on the back I embroidered:

    My Bicycle Is Morally Superior To Your Prius

  • avatar
    alans11

    Not much on stickers, personally, but here’s a short story for you. Lots of folks in my area have Christian fish on their cars. That’s OK by me. But, someone gave me a fish with legs that said “Darwin” in the middle. Amused me, and since it’s clear evolution happens and is no conflict with religion, I put it on a car. Three weeks later I came back to the parking lot to find someone had ripped it off the car, thrown it on the ground, stomped it to pieces, and replaced it with a sticker that said, “God is love.” Nice sentiment, but seemed a tad hypocritical at the time. :-)

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Why all the fuss about bumper stickers?

    I went through a bumper sticker phase when I lived in Boston. But I always tended toward the absurdist rather than the political. Some examples:

    There was a sticker issued by the State you saw everywhere: A Little Courtesy Won’t Kill You. I got hold of a few copies of this gem and with a little X-acto work transformed it into “A Little Courtesy Or I’ll Kill You”. Pasted on my girlfriend’s white ’71 Dart, it got some interesting reactions at stoplights.

    Then there was the custom-made bumper sticker that read “Shoes For Industry!” (hopefully, some of you will recognize the reference). And the other one that read “com-pu-ta pu-ro-gu-ra-ma” in Japanese Katakana script that I had on my RX-7.

    My last custom sticker was somewhat later when I lived in Ohio during the Clinton era. It read “Honk if You’ve Been Subpoenaed by Ken Starr”.

    But all my efforts pale compared to the best sticker I ever saw: “Reunite Gondwanaland”.

    I haven’t had a sticker on one of my vehicles in years and I expect I never will again.

  • avatar
    don1967

    She’s the sort of person you’d want, well, for your child’s teacher–and there’s simply nothing about her or her bumper stickers that a hater could hang onto.

    As long as you want those particular political values instilled in your children. Would you still feel the same if her bumper stickers read “Abortion stops a beating heart” or “McCain 2008”?

    Politics does not belong in public school any more than the church does.

  • avatar

    Ronnie and Don,

    H. sapien brains have a very interesting tendency to see what they expect to see rather than what is really there. Read the story carefully this time.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      David, I understand your point that the owner of this particular bumper-stickered hybrid is deeper than the vehicle’s cliched appearance would indicate. But with “Barack to the Future”, veganism, and the whole science-as-religion thing it is reasonable to conclude that she doesn’t go that much deeper.

  • avatar
    alans11

    “As long as you want those particular political values instilled in your children.”

    Why would you assume she would do that?

    “Would you still feel the same if her bumper stickers read “Abortion stops a beating heart” or “McCain 2008″?”

    Or that someone with those stickers would teach their content?

    All teachers have personal values. There’s no reason to assume that either left-leaning or right-leaning teachers are going to push their agendas harder than the other — or at all.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      Why would you assume she would do that?

      Well, for starters, because she wears her opinions all over her car. Reminds me of the Grade Four teacher at my kids’ (Canadian) school who “balanced” a discussion about evil American corporations with a discussion about evil American politicians.

      Just because the teacher’s opinions are carefully hidden among pseudo-scientific nuggets about Pluto and God does not make them “educational” or even “thought-provoking”. Where is the balance; the opposing view? Where is the bumper sticker depicting Obama building an iron curtain out of spare car parts, or the one about global warming scientists standing next to a melting glacier in the Canadian Arctic while a 90-million-year-old tropical leaf fossil teeters precariously above their heads?

      That would be thought-provoking. All I see in this image is a rolling cliche.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Most cars bedecked with bumper stickers are teenage girls or college age young women.

  • avatar

    @lanetru,

    While my head agrees with you that Pluto is probably not a planet–for a planet should outweigh everything in its orbital pathway–my heart says that it, and Eris are planets #s 9 and 10.

  • avatar

    PS: anyone who wants to see more photos of this car, just email me at [email protected], and I’ll send some.

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    If I owned that car, I’d rather leave it at home and take the bus too. What a mess!

  • avatar

    Don,

    You’re still reading in what you’re expecting, and not what’s there. In your defense, well, at least on my computer I can’t read more than maybe 5-6 stickers, but I can tell you there is almost no politics, no “science as religion,” and absolutely nothing about climate change or any other issue of the day. And there are no pseudo-scientific nuggets, and less you think math jokes are pseudoscientific nuggets. (The Pluto is a planet thing is a subject of a lot of debate among the relevant astronomers, and something I wrote up for Smithsonian, and for whatever it is worth, her older son is married to a woman who works at NASA.) Furthermore, in the 45 minutes or hour we spent together we didn’t discuss politics or anything remotely related. She is the most enchanting person I’ve ever met, and has an extremely lively mind. I got absolutely no sense that she has any interest in indoctrinating anyone about anything. You are drawing a parallel to your own grade 4 experience that simply is not there.

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