I passed a car downtown this morning. On the windows, in jaunty lettering, were “Eat my Bubbles” and “Go Molly!” For just a brief moment, I really wanted to be Molly, whoever she is, confident in her probable role as swim team standout. I just think there’s a certain insouciance in the “Eat my Bubbles” phrase, and I want that attitude.
Have you ever thought about how our cars are avatars, stand-ins for our identity? We pass untold numbers of people on the roads each day… people who will never know us, our thoughts, what song we’re listening to, how we smell, what we’re drinking, or what detritus is on our passenger seat. But they’ll see whatever we plaster to the outside of our cars, and they’ll see our choice of car.
Recently I read an article about how cars used to be the big teenage status symbol; what sort of wheels you drove telegraphed something, right or wrong. And nowadays the same age group is known far more through their social media presence than through their vehicles.
Yet still, those on the road are presenting a consciously curated version of themselves. My car is a little quirky, with checkerboard side mirrors, in my favorite shade of blue. “She” has a name — Zippy — because she matches a friend’s eyes (or contacts, really), and the friend’s name is Zippy. She has two stickers on her — a SPACIOUS sticker and a sticker that says simply “UM,” shorthand for my last name but truly sold to advertise a band I’ve never heard (Umphrey’s McGee).
Once I passed a car that had huge, professionally rendered signs on the windows that let me know I was passing “Little Miss Junior Dairy Princess from Alleghany County” (or some such moniker). I rode alongside that Minivan for a while, craning my neck to get a look at the little beauty pageant standout, but I never could see her. Or maybe the regular kid I saw in the backseat just didn’t look like I expected a beauty queen to look. Yet I knew what the family was most proud of, and I wondered about the sibling rivalry factor in that crowd! WHEW!
What do we telegraph as we go around? And what does it say about our collective desire to be known and appreciated when we use our cars to let people know we are, even as we will never meet most of those we pass.
A vanity license plate: NOTICEME.
P.S.: Yes, I know my hair is grey now.