Friday, January 14, 2011

Tombstones and Breeder Tags

I think there is a PHD dissertation, a heavy coffee-table book, and a permanent spot as a pundit on NPR for anyone who creates a definitive history and analysis of bumper stickers and similar vehicle personalization devices. From mudflap girls to fake bullet holes, from "Don't Mess with Texas" to yellow ribbons (now sadly in decline, despite the fact that we're still in Afghanistan, people), what we put on our cars is a window into who we are and what we want others to think about us.

And recently, I've hit two new phenomena, which I have chosen to name for lack of better things to do.

The first involves Tombstoning. I noticed this a couple times over the past few months. The entire back window of the vehicle ahead of me is taken up by a full decal saying in something along the lines of "In Loving Memory - *Insert Name Here* - You Will Be Remembered". The vehicle itself has been turned into a memorial for the loved one, with the back window of the vehicle its epitath.

I find this touching, but also started wondering - is there a time limit on vehicular mourning? If another loved one dies, do they get the slot, or would a simple additional line merit? Is it bad taste if the deceased died in a vehicular accident, or merely ironic? Does it effect resale value? I don't think Miss Manners has the answers for these questions.

The other new effect is something I'm calling Breeder Tags. They are pretty popular, and you see them on the back window of vans and SUVs. Usually it is Dad, Mom, and a number of kids, divided by gender and sometimes by age/height. I know this one has gone national, since the ones I've seen have been Disney-inspired, where everyone except the girls are wearing Mickey Mouse ears (and the young girls are princesses).

Part of this strikes me as justification - I need the big vehicle because I have a lot of kids to haul. I'm cool with that, though I notice that some are a little be disingenuous - What looks like a large family at first blush turns out to include dogs, cats, and even goldfish. Now your back window is not an IRS form, and you can claim as many dependents as you choose to stick there, but it just doesn't stand up under examination. It feels like a criminal use of the inherent promise of a "Baby on Board" decal.

And there was one set that combined the first development with the second. It was a set of breeder tags in the lower left-hand corner with one member positioned at the top of the windshield, with wings and halo. And all at once I am consumed by the sadness of losing a child and creeped out by the fact that you'd want to broadcast this to people zipping along at 60 MPH on I-5.

More later,