We weren't cheerleaders or majorettes or band members, but my girlfriend and I did have matching jackets. In our last year in Junior High, we ordered sky-blue corduroy zip-ups, with large collars we could pull up in a super-cool way. But the best part was the writing across the back. There, scrawled in a black- corded cursive script were our nicknames: "Lucky" and "Nikki" Not our REAL names of course-- our parents would have had conniptions.
"Lucky" and "Nikki" were non-conformists. We were the Outcasts. We had seen "Rebel Without A Cause". We were our own club. We didn't feel a part of anything, so the logical step was to pretend not to care. We created our own society.
The jackets were our letter to the world that never wrote to us, to paraphrase Emily. And for almost a full year we traveled hand in hand and jacket to jacket, harmonizing to obscure songs not found on Your Hit Parade and planning Huck Finn-ish adventures on rafts to anywhere.
Then we graduated. We lost touch. I put the jacket away and donated it years later during a rainy- day attic cleanup. Since then, my M.O. has been to not plaster anything on myself or my things.
Okay- I did have a M*A*S*H* T-shirt. A long time ago. And there was a bumper sticker a while back that said, MARINES. Other than that, there has been studious avoidance of any advocacy for anything.
And so it has stayed for these many years. When out and about, on foot, car, plane or bus, I strive to remain as anonymous as possible. I don't buy shoes with swooshes on them, or T-shirts with slogans, or put ads on myself or house or car. I don't advertise for anyone. No ribbons of any sort to remind others of anything.
It is not a judgement of anyone who does, it just wasn't me. So I was pretty sure I had avoided any stickers or ribbons or slogans or anything that would tell folks who or what I was for, or who or what I was against.
And then one day in the mail came a small envelope from a group I have supported. There was a bumper sticker inside. "Drive proudly with this message" the letter said.
I debated about putting this sticker on my bumper, even though I was very much a supporter of the movement. It wasn't a BIG sticker, nor a very LOUD one. 5 inches by 4 inches, I guessed, in suitably muted colors. Someone had to get up very close to read it. Yes, a very sedate sticker for a very wary me.
And not probably to be noticed, I convinced myself. So I broke my long-standing rule about declaring myself to the world, and with trembling fingers pressed the sticker to my back bumper. And a strange transformation has taken place.
Now I wonder if I am following too closely.
Now I wonder-- should I speed to get around that pokey old car in front of me?
Now I ask myself: should I push ahead when the caution light shows?
Now I always make sure to take the grocery carts back into the store or into the parking lot crib.
I let cars into my lane with a happy wave.
I let folks in the grocery line go ahead of me because I am in no hurry and they must be.
And not only things that I find myself doing, but things I find myself thinking. The cashier who was curt could be wrestling with a problem I know nothing about. The boy with the strange haircut may be making his own statement I can't know. That aggravating phone caller at dinner time has perhaps a family to support.
I'm not sure if anyone else has noticed this sticker-it doesn't ask anyone to "honk" or wave or anything. Maybe, reading it, it didn't change anyone's attitude at all…but it sure has changed me.
Since I put that message on my bumper, I find myself trying to live up to it. And in this long-awaited Spring, that can be a good thing.
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