Posted by: tampachamber on Friday, October 5, 2018
I've long held a fascination with bumper stickers. From the cute to the clever to the controversial, I have an appreciation for how people far smarter than me can craft such provocative and poignant thoughts in such a finite space. How they came to be a staple in my column, however, remains somewhat of a mystery. I did a little digging through our archives and found one of the earliest references to a bumper sticker in a 2004 column. In noting my 40th birthday, I remarked at the wisdom of this nugget: Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present. But it wasn't until my column began appearing on the front of the Times' Monday Metro section that I zeroed in on the practice of trying to include one in nearly every column. That column -- limited to 300 words because of the design of the page and a request of my editors to keep it to the front page (no jumping inside) -- essentially required the same tenets of a bumper sticker. I needed to deliver a lot of thoughts in a finite space. So began a quest that to this day prompts me to scour the back of cars even when I'm traveling at high rates of speed. At times, I've walked behind cars in parking lots and snapped a shot, even if it leaves me looking like a weird stalker trying to record someone's license tag number. Choosing what makes it into print requires a degree of discernment. I've learned over the years that it's wise to stray away from political statements, but stickers seen on cars in this decade that referenced the Richard Nixon and Ross Perot campaigns made the cut. I also include stickers that don't necessarily reflect my opinion. The idea is to allow the sticker to make a statement about how some in our community may feel. So, a sticker that said, "I'll keep my guns and religion, you can keep the change" made it into my column in the months after Barack Obama was first elected president. I also must be careful not to offend. A reader once sent in this bumper sticker: If Life Gives You Melons, Maybe You're Dyslexic. Some readers decried the sticker as a poor attempt at humor, but I had to explain -- and should have included this note in the column -- that the sticker came from a reader who has dyslexia. I've also relied on other sources, so you will occasionally read "Seen on a T-shirt" and "Seen on a church marquee." But to bring some clarity to the situation: I don't see every sticker I include in the column. I've trained my friends and family to relay quality stickers, and I probably get more suggestions from readers than I see on my own. However, every bumper sticker is indeed a bumper sticker. I don't make them up. Oh, I wish I could be so philosophical, so brilliant, but my creativity doesn't extend to those incredible pearls of wisdom and delectable nuggets of humor we all should cherish. Without further ado, here’s a random list of bumper stickers I've used in columns over the years -- just for my Leadership Tampa Alumni friends. Seen on a bumper sticker:
  • I’d Be A Vegetarian, If Bacon Was A Vegetable.
  • If Your Dreams Don’t Scare You A Little, They’re Not Big Enough.
  • To Have The Last Word, Try An Apology.
  • Intelligent Ones Wonder — Idiots Are Dead Sure.
  • Yes, I Talk To Myself. But Only When I Need Expert Advice.
  • Friends Are God's Apology For Relatives.
  • Johnny Cash Is A Friend Of Mine.
  • Follow Your Dreams - Except That One Where You're at School in Your Underwear.
  • Comparison Is The Thief Of Joy.
  • I Do What the Bumper Stickers Tell Me.
  • Orwell's 1984 Was A Warning, Not A Manual.
  • Paddle Faster, I Hear Banjo Music.
  • Just Give Me Coffee, And No One Will Get Hurt.
  • There's No Shortcut To Anywhere Worth Going.
  • If we can put a man on the moon, why not all of them?
  • Don't Make Me Use UPPERCASE.
  • You Never See A Harley Parked In Front Of A Shrink's Office.
  • If going to church makes you a Christian, does going to the garage make you a car?
  • In Internet Years, I'm 19 and Hot.
  • I'm Out Of Bed and Dressed. What More Do You Want?
  • God wants spiritual fruits, not religious nuts.
  • All Work, No Pay Makes A Housewife.
  • If You're Going Through Hell, Don't Stop.
  • Good girls go to heaven, Bad girls go everywhere else.
  • I'm Not Paranoid. Why? What Have You Heard?
  • D.A.D.D. - Dads Against Daughters Dating.
  • A Smooth Sea Never Made a Good Sailor.
  • PMS allows women once a month to act like men do every day.
  • If ignorance is bliss, why aren't more people happy?
  • I want a sensitive man. One who'll cry when I punch him.
Ernest Hooper, LT’03 2018 Newsletter/Annual Review Co-Chair Editor and Columnist, Tampa Bay Times Follow him @hoop4you