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Honk If You Love Whales

August 19, 2015


First posted 12/16/11


I’m really tired of being burned when it comes to bumper stickers and artwork on other people’s cars. Responding to these attention grabbers over the years hasn’t always yielded positive results. I’m fed up with the angry looks I get for flashing a thumbs up for chrome fish proclaiming the driver to be a follower of Jesus. I’m bored with political causes and advertisements for overpriced alma maters, license plate frames celebrating private pilots and llama farmers, and stickers announcing the driver would rather be skiing.


Years ago during my morning walk to the bus stop, a van would pass by painted with Matisse’s The Dancers, one of my favorite works of art. The painting depicted five figures forming a circle. Drawn with remarkable simplicity, these dancers kicked up their heels with unabashed enthusiasm for life. It was hard to gaze at the painting without feeling like a child again, as if I were reaching out to join a game of “Ring Around the Rosie.”


This went on for months; sometimes I’d pick up my pace to try and catch a closer glimpse of the driver but we never managed to arrive at the corner stop sign at the same time. I couldn’t help wondering about the fellow driving that van. What were the chances that his car would be decorated with my favorite painting? I wondered if he was my soul mate. Other than Matisse, what else did we have in common? Was he a fellow artist also chasing an illusive muse? Did he have fantasies like I did about one day becoming the father of modern art?


The day finally came when our paths converged. I was approaching the bus stop on the corner and this time the bus was early. The Matisse Van, as I’d come to think of it, was stopped behind the bus. I dashed up to the driver’s window and tapped on the glass.


A nondescript guy rolled down the window. “Yeah, what do you want?”


“I just want to say how much I love and appreciate your vehicle. Matisse is my favorite artist and seeing The Dancers on your van every morning cheers me up.”


The dude scratched his head, a cigarette dangling in the corner of his mouth. “If you’re talking about those silly dancing hippies, they were already there when I bought this van. As soon as I can afford a paint job this baby is gonna be metal-flake purple.”


My bus pulled away while I stood there with my mouth open. The Matisse Van drove off as well.



The Dance (1909) by Matisse


Which brings us to yesterday afternoon. There I was in bumper to bumper traffic hunting for the right chili powder for my mother. (Our community has a large Hispanic population and the markets are filled with countless types of chili that aren’t good enough for Mom.) A car switched lanes, pulling in front of me. The bumper sticker on the back of the car read: Honk If You Love Whales!


Well, dammit! I DO love whales. I think they’re wonderfully majestic creatures that we’ve driven to the brink of extinction. Whales are a hallmark species and the world would be a lesser place without them.


I should have given it more thought, I should have wised up from previous experiences and considered the fact that the whale sticker could have been put on that car’s bumper ages ago and is invisible to the car’s current owner. But without my realizing it, my hand found the horn. I pressed down long and hard, trying to expiate for a great grandfather who was a Nantucket whaler. Without bothering to turn around, the driver removed a hand from the wheel and flipped me an uncooperative finger gesture.


From now on I’m not going to trust any bumper stickers, decals or pictures on cars, not even if Jesus Himself has taken the wheel.






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You don't tend to see many bumper stickers on cars here in the UK, it's all seen as a bit naff. Also I don't think anyone feels safe enough to state and interest or passion in anything incase they get their car keyed.
By: LL Cool Joe on August 19, 2015
Funny! Reminds me of my favorite bumper sticker of all time, which I saw on a pickup truck in the hills of Tennessee in the late 1970s: God, Guns and Grits Made America Great. (I did not try to cozy up to that guy!)
By: Tom Sightings on August 19, 2015
Oh my, I never responded to bumper stickers and have none on my car because I am thinking some jerk would key the car for my political statement.
By: Tabor on August 19, 2015
I no longer put a bumper snicker or any other sort of personal comment on my car for the same reason mentioned by others. There are too many folks out there that think it's ok to damage your car while you are practicing free speech. I think the last one I placed on my vehicle said "My other car is a broom" ! Have a lovely day!
By: Kathe W. on August 19, 2015
I'm starting to see signs you are turning into a Grumpy Old Man. Have you yelled at kids for cutting through you yard yet?
By: cranky on August 19, 2015
I make an effort to read bumper stickers and car tags too, but agree that it's just plain silliness to ask people to honk when honking is taken to mean, "Get the hell out of my way."
By: Snowbrush on August 19, 2015
I get a kick out of reading those cars that are wall papered with a variety of sticker and logos. But now we have those vanity plates to regard as well. I saw this one on a car in front of me-and realized it's "message" when I passed it and read it in the rear view mirror 3I0H55A
By: Tom Cochrun on August 19, 2015
Love that 3I0H55A plate!!
By: fishducky on August 19, 2015
I just saw a bumper sticker earlier today that put a smile on my face. It said, "I used to be cool."
By: Susan Swiderski on August 19, 2015
It's really not a good idea to have them any more, it seems. My favorite, though, was in the shape of one of those support ribbons that are actually magnets that stick to the car. This one was black and said, "Some a**hole stole my support ribbon!" That's a person with my sense of humor.
By: mimi on August 19, 2015
Oh that moron with the Matisse van should never have that car. He probably thinks Elvis on velvet is a masterwork. I am actually sick of seeing "baby on board" signs. Does this mean i should drive slower when around you or wait until I pass by? Maybe I should hit the car and get 10 extra points? Anyway i think that sign is just stupid. ...hopefully you never had that sign:)
By: Birgit on August 19, 2015
By: TexWisGirl on August 19, 2015
What a bummer to find out the guy was clueless. You should have offered to buy his van. He didn't deserve it. My town must not be into signs. Can't remember the last one I saw. Ok Tom, you made me get a mirror--that is clever.
By: Akansas Patti on August 19, 2015
That's a great post. Thanks for bringing it back.
By: Catalyst on August 19, 2015
I don't have any bumper stickers on my car, but in lieu of a front license plate, I have the German flag on my car. When I see another car with one like that, we wave at each other.
By: Pixel Peeper on August 19, 2015
I'll take any bumper sticker, even one that says, "Don't argue with your wife--DICKER," over those fake scrotums on pickup trucks.
By: Val on August 19, 2015
Clueless and classless dude. You should have given him a smack.
By: Daniel LaFrance on August 19, 2015
They do provide entertainment value when on a borig ride through traffic...
By: the broad on August 19, 2015
I don't honk no matter how many stickers entreat me to do so. A horn tends to lead to trouble. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on August 19, 2015
They are something I have never taken notice of until now.............. Great post!
By: John on August 20, 2015
Great post! I have long ago given up on bumper stickers and don't get me started about my fellow Christians and their bumper stickers--most would do more the kingdom to have a pagan sticker on their car, cause if you're going to flaunt your faith, you better live it!
By: Sage on August 20, 2015
Too funny. Maybe the guy hates all whale lovers. I've had a bumper sticker or two on my car, but they didn't last long. I generally find them stupid and annoying.
By: Robyn Engel on August 20, 2015
I don't see a lot of bumper stickers anymore- but then again..bumpers aren't what they used to be. The only people I honk at are the ones who sit too long at the traffic lights because they are busy staring at their smart phones.
By: Terri on August 21, 2015
Bumper stickers in recent years have revealed the anger so many feel at being alienated in one way or another. I find bumper stickers rather obnoxious anyway...
By: Michael Manning on August 23, 2015
I rarely see a bumper sticker here that gets me excited (in a good way.) the last one that made me smile was, Paddle faster, I hear banjos.
By: Rick Watson on August 28, 2015

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