I don’t think it’s ever a good thing to judge total strangers based on a first impression or some potentially superficial facet of their persona. But I’ll make an exception for bumper stickers. If you’re passionate enough about something to start advertising it as you drive around, you’re fair game for a snap judgement based on the advertising you choose for your vehicle.
Two cases in point from LA’s streets:
First, I’m one of those guys who, either for altruistic reasons or for neurotic reasons (or both), will flash my headlights at someone who’s driving at night with their headlights out. About 98% of the time it’s totally ignored – someone who’s clueless enough to be driving without headlights is also so brain dead or distracted behind the wheel that they simply don’t notice anyone flashing their lights. About 1% of the time it actually works – they get the signal, recognize it, go “Oh, shit, that’s me,” and turn on their lights.
The other 1% I ran into on my way home tonight. His custom plates were something like “GOD♡4EVR” and there were at least a half dozen bumper stickers on the back gate of the minivan asking if I had been saved, warning me that in case of the Rapture the car would be empty, and so on.
Coming up behind them I could see that the tail lights were dark, and as soon as we got to a darker stretch of the road it was obvious his headlights were off as well. The brake lights were working fine, so the problem was obvious. I flashed my lights, once, twice – nothing. We were coming up on a light that had just turned red, there was no one else around us, so I switched lanes and pulled up beside the guy. I rolled down my passenger window and honked, trying to get him to look over so I could tell him what’s wrong.
Nothing. I honked again. Still nothing. I tapped the horn a third time and let my car drift forward a few inches so that I could see the driver better. Isn’t the normal reaction to at least glance over and see who’s honking and why?
The look on this guy’s face said it all. It was a middle aged white guy, balding, collared dress shirt with no tie but buttoned all the way to the top. He was staring straight ahead and scared shitless. There was no way on Earth he was going to glance over and make eye contact.
MY GOD SOME LUNATIC ON THE ROAD HAS BEEN FLASHING HIS LIGHTS AT ME AND NOW HE’S HONKING AT ME IT’S PROBABLY ONE OF THOSE GANG INITIATION THINGS THAT I HEARD ABOUT ON HANNITY OR THE 700 CLUB AND IF I LOOK OVER THERE IT WILL BE A LOW-RIDER FULL OF GANG MEMBERS JUST WAITING TO BLOW ME AWAY SO WHATEVER YOU DO DON’T LOOK! DON’T LOOK! DON’T LOOK! DON’T LOOK!
I left him alone and gave him plenty of space, not honking or flashing any more. About a block later he turned off into a subdivision which, coincidentally, had a serious lack of street lighting. It was almost comical as I went by to see how he suddenly slammed on his brakes in the middle of the road and finally turned on his lights.
Do I think he suddenly said, “Ah ha! That’s what that guy was trying to tell me!” Or do I think he’s at home on some whackjob website perpetuating that stupid urban myth?
Second guy, while I was taking a quick walk around the block at lunch yesterday. A guy is trying to parallel park. He’s got a Prius. He’s trying to parallel park into a spot big enough to easily fit an Escalade. The key work is “trying.” Once, fails. Pulls out and tries again. Fails. Pulls out and backs up to try to pull forward-ish into the spot. Fails. Pulls back out and tries the parallel parking again. Fails and almost hits the car that’s already parked there.
I was going to stop and give him some hand signals or help (remember, altruistic and/or psychotic) when I saw the not one, not two, but three “Ted Cruz” bumper stickers.
For all I know he’s still trying to park that sucker.