Behind The Bumper Stickers
“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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If I owned that car, I'd rather leave it at home and take the bus too. What a mess!
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.