Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Express Yourself

By Annette Dashofy

Some people try to get through life unnoticed, anonymous. The rest of us feel a need to let the world know who we are, what we’re about, and what we believe. There are a number of ways to accomplish this. Blogging, of course, is one. Writing books, another.

However, I have noticed recently some other methods people have used to get their individual message across and I sometimes wonder if what they’re putting out there is really what they’re aiming for.

Example: a while back, I sat in traffic behind a Chevy S-10 Blazer. The entire back of this small, older vehicle was plastered with decals and stickers. There were several of those buxom naked lady silhouettes that usually adorn tractor trailer mudflaps. There were also a wide variety of confederate flags and some rather repulsive (I’m sure he thought they were funny) bumper stickers. I never got a good look at the driver. But I wonder if he realized that his SUV was screaming “I am a racist, sexist, redneck and proud of it!”

Cars seem to be used as a platform for their owners’ opinions quite frequently. Remember how after 9-11, every car sprouted an American flag? And when the local sports teams are hot, their banners fly from at least every third or fourth vehicle. How many of you have one of those magnetic ribbon things stuck on your mode of transportation? I like the ones that say “I support the troops.” Well, DUH. Don’t we all? Even if you don't support the war, you support the troops fighting it. Bring those boys home!

Speaking of anti-war…

The other night I was driving along Second Avenue. This road is bordered on one side with an ancient stone wall. Someone decided to use this long wall as the medium for an extensive, very anti-war message. There was also a segment about “Kill your TV” which I don’t quite get, but that’s beside the point. The message was SO extensive that the author apparently ran out of paint. After several color changes, the words just fizzle into nothingness. Lesson: if you’re going to make a statement, make sure you have enough supplies. This is why I keep several back-up ink cartridges in my cupboard.

Another faded sign (spray paint on plywood) I spotted along the road a couple months ago read “PARTY! Food/beverages. Saturday the 22nd.” There was no mention of a month or year and the sign looked almost permanent. Do these people throw a party every time the twenty-second falls on a Saturday? When does that happen again? Let me check my calendar. Hey, there’s a Saturday the 22nd this month! Let’s all head over there. Apparently, everyone’s invited!

So, if you really think about it, what does your car or your house or your yard say about you? And have you seen any examples of other folks attempting to express themselves lately?

10 comments:

reedme@telerama.com said...

Annette, I went to hear Anne Lamott speak at Soldiers and Sailors last Saturday, and it would be hard to get more self-expressive than she is.

The crowd was from Pittsburgh - all of us in black or grey overcoats, the sky leaden - and she came out with her short blonde dreads and a glittering silk scarf like some rarely seen fantastic animal.

I may not agree with Anne's politics - she's so far left the needle is on the red line - but she did write the best How To Write book I ever read: Bird by Bird. I recommend it to everyone I know (and just did it again).

I do wonder why Pittsburghers are so self-effacing. There's always plenty going on, you just have to dig for it. Is it a holdover from the 70's when the mills closed their doors and everyone had to hunker down to survive? Chicago is similar in size to us, but they don't seem to share this trait. I wonder...

Tory said...

I notice when I fly to Seattle to visit my brother over Xmas how I'm the only one wearing bright colors. Well, at least my sister-in-law approves . . .

Annette said...

Joyce, that's what I mean...they probably think the message they're sending out is "I love the Steelers" but what everyone is seeing is "I'm a moron and need a life."

Unless your neighbor is Ben Roethlisberger in which case he SHOULD worship the Steelers for making him able to afford such monster trucks.

Nancy said...

My sister came to Pittsburgh last summer for a party. She arrived in her boyfriend's car, a Saab with a New York plate and the bumper sticker: "Worst. President. Ever." Somewhat fearfully, they stopped at a Pittsburgh gas station, not sure how the rednecks with the Steeler gear would react. As soon as they pulled up to the pump, a large local man approached the car and glared meaningfully at the bumper sticker before going inside to buy a packof cigarettes. My sister and boyfriend scrambled to fill up the car as fast as they could. No luck. When big scary guy emerged from the gas station, he lumbered over to my sister and loomed over her. She tried not to cringe.

He said, "Where can I get a bumper sticker like that?"

She decided we weren't all rednecks after all.

Annette said...

Touting your politics on your vehicle always feels risky to me. It's like you're inviting a large portion of the population to key your car or worse.

Now, Nancy, as for your sister, she was probably pretty safe no matter where she went. The number of people willing to argue that particular sentiment are dwindling by the day.

Gina said...

I don't have any bumper stickers and rarely wear any kind of button. I used to wear buttons in support of one thing or another, but found that even innocuous ones can lead to hostility. For example, someone had given me a button with a picture of a cat's face on it; it looked like Moriah, a very sweet cat I had then. A strange man approached to tell me that he considered all cats vermin and, if he sees a cat while he's out hunting in the woods, he shoots it. I could only respond by telling him that I disagreed, adding, "I certainly hope that next time you're out hunting in the woods somebody shoots you." See what I mean? Hostility.

reedme@telerama.com said...

Speaking of buttons, one of my professors went to Dublin for a teachers conference and everyone looked at the button he was wearing and then gave him a funny look. He finally figured it out: Independent Reading Association (IRA) didn't go over well.

These days he wouldn't have made it through Customs.

Kristine said...

Well, if you look at my car, you'll learn that I love my dog and that I have a baby (from the car seat in the back). As for my yard, it's pretty basic and bare, which probably explains a lot about how I live my life...ha ha ha.

Annette said...

Gina, that reminds me of a t-shirt I used to have that had pictures of all sorts of different kitties on it and said "One can never have too many cats." I thought it was adorable and wore it all the time. Until two people cornered me, literally, in the grocery store with appalled looks on their faces. "You don't REALLY believe that do you?" the one screamed at me. I don't remember the rest of their rant because I was too busy trying to get the heck outta there.

I only wore that shirt around the house afterwards.

Nancy said...

A few months ago, I bought a handful of Hillary buttons in an airport. To tell the truth, I haven't worn any of them yet. I'm afraid somebody will punch me.