The Intrepid Explorer – Nov. 26


I’ve always had a thing for stickers and bumper stickers as a tool for the freedom of speech. They are a way to support a business, music, make a statement and the most important sticker fetish for me was validation to where I had been. I want to tell all that the Chool Bus has been there. When one gets old, cracks and fades, you can return, revisit the place that you had been and get another one. It’s like a “been there, done that t-shirt,” only less intrusive.

Although still lingering, are the heydays of stickers and bumper stickers fading? Is this passage, a move to remove a simple statement, dwindling in popularity due to the invasion of the social media meme? I find it a bit disheartening that they may be losing their popularity, or worse, being somewhat replaced by the meme that has invaded social media.

Sticker snobs and historians date the first bumper sticker back to the 1940s. The first car to feature a bumper was the Model A. What initially was a safety feature for the vehicle soon became a canvas for Forest P. Gill, a silkscreen printer from Kansas City. He has the credit as the inventor of the bumper sticker. Gill pioneered the use of adhesive to stick bumper stickers to vehicles and made the modern bumper stickers possible. He created his first bumper stickers for tourist attractions.

Most vehicle brands today, especially in the luxury category, have veered towards a more discreet hidden bumper. This streamline design has also brought the decline of the bumper sticker.

The traditional bumper sticker is becoming unstuck due to the “Bumper Conundrum.” As car technology and safety features evolved, car-engineering experts have developed a theory called the Bumper Conundrum.

This theory asserts that the more effective a bumper is at protecting against minor dings and collisions, the less aesthetically appealing it becomes. In response, automakers began disguising the bumpers with paint jobs that matched the body of the car in the late 80s. This look ultimately yielded to the modern bumper, which is entirely disguised under plastic or fiberglass. And of course without a big, unsightly bumper, what place do bumper stickers have?

What these car-engineering experts forgot was to figure in Wyoming roads and wildlife migration. Henceforth the plastic we see scattered about our highways and roads.

These days, instead of bumper stickers advertising and hyping tourist destinations, it’s more common to see a group of stick figures broadcasting the family members. They are proudly telling the world what belongs inside the car and at home.

I always have an eye out for stickers. Stickers that have a strong opinion, something to evoke thought or the ones that make laughter. No matter what the sticker says or promotes, I understand everyone has the right to share (or not share) their opinions and brand preferences on their car.

For thousands of years, humans have felt the shared need to mark the boundaries of their territory, particularly in opposition to others. With fences, personal decorations and other markers, humans today continue to trademark their territory so that others know what is theirs and how they identify their own.

A custom sticker for your car and water bottle are honored badges, an extension of who you are, where you live, what you believe and what products, teams and brands you use. While displaying a tattoo, a t-shirt, a flag or a neon light may be a more obvious way of defining your opinions and who you are, the house you live in, clothes you wear, the car you drive are defining similar billboards and points of commonality, just in subtler ways.

Now in the 21st century, we gave birth to the Internet memes, or memes. Meme cultural concept emerged within the culture of the Internet, gained popularity, bringing a renewed interest to the meme concept of digital bumper stickers. They are spread from person to person through sharing in social media like an unchecked venereal disease.

I hope the need and desire survive as the world turns to virtual reality after the boredom of social media in the cultural parallel of logging on are driving on and seeing in real life.

Stickers are more hands-on in real time. You have to touch them, peel them and place them after you have been someplace to get them. Placing them on your automobile, bus, trailer, water bottle, journal or toolbox is a sign of living outside the box in hopes of boldly displaying them as a banner as to what you believe and where been have been. A place of unknown origin where no man, or neighbor, has yet seen, thought or gone. - dbA

You can find more of the unfiltered insight of Dan Abernathy at www.contributechaos.com and please SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube Channel, The Intrepid Explorer.

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