In the United States, the car decal is almost an institution. From rusty beaters to luxury sedans and from sports cars to jacked-up pickups, stickers are everywhere on cars. Is it freedom of expression? A way to differentiate oneself from the masses? A technique for identifying your silver Camry from the sixteen other silver Camrys in your parking row?
Decal varieties range from sports teams, race sponsors, the ubiquitous stick family, political parties, and the very classy Calvin doing his worst on one logo or another. A decal can signal to computer preference, religion, or favorite sidearm manufacturer. If your child is above average in their school class, there’s a sticker for that. If you wish to express your support or disdain for anything you can think of, there’s a sticker for that.
If you have a beloved bawdy joke you wish to express to all those who drive behind you, there is a sticker for that. The sky is the limit and there are no censors in Bumper Sticker Land, at least none that I am aware of, judging by the decals I have seen in the wild.
This is where things can get strange. In the past, bumper stickers consisted of generic funny sayings or simple happy faces produced in mass quantities but today, there are enough custom sticker manufacturers out there that you could request your Social Security number on one and have it on your tailgate in a week. As a result, there are some very obscure, strange, and surprisingly specific automotive decals on the road, and this is just a sampling of 25 of them.
22 Caution: Nicolas Cage
Nicolas Cage is an actor, the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, an Academy Award winner, the star of movies both great and awful (with almost 100 movies to his name), and the subject of many a meme. He can be a polarizing figure, buying castles, being investigated by the I.R.S., marrying and then divorcing the daughter of Elvis, and spending a quarter of a million dollars on a stolen dinosaur skull. This decal, created by someone named Brandon Bird, sheds no more light on the cult that is Nic Cage. And yet, we can’t look away.
21 GTA Vice City
The strangeness of this decal is multi-faceted. The message it conveys is slightly humorous but the sheer size of the sticker seems to indicate that the statement should be taken seriously. The official-looking caution symbol further adds to the gravity of the message. The spelling error just adds confusion to the mix. GTA Vice City video game is over 15 years old, yet this Suzuki Wagon R is 10 years old at the most, putting it in the era of GTA IV. Strange? Yes, very.
Chocobos, apparently, are from Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy, apparently, is a video game created in Japan by a company called Square. Chocobos are like a large bird that the player can ride, so, presumably, this driver is a gamer who would like to signal to other gamers that they play Final Fantasy. The rest of us non-gamers can simply scratch our heads and wonder if a Chocobo is some sort of car named after a chocolate bar, or possibly a motorcycle manufactured in some obscure country.
19 Keep Salem Lame
If you are familiar with the Pacific Northwest, Portland’s mantra “Keep Portland Weird” might be familiar to you, created as a way to support local businesses but ultimately adopted by the population of Portland as their local credo. “Keep Salem Lame” is, apparently, Salem’s response to the Portland mantra, as well as an extension of one of Salem’s nicknames, So-lame. The Salem bumper stickers are less of a conscious attempt to popularize the local Salem scene, and more of a tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating counter to Portland’s version. This all begs the question, is it better to be weird or lame?
18 Make A Dent
This strange bumper sticker was posted by Reddit user benbowgl in 2013 in the RVA subreddit, a forum specifically relating to Richmond, Virginia. VCU is Virginia Commonwealth University, as can be seen in the small lettering below the main text on the decal. The dent in the vehicle’s bumper is the icing on the cake, but the original message of the sticker is still somewhat mysterious and vague. Some advanced Google-Fu finally revealed the crux of the message in a PDF at support.vcu.edu: "We create change. We move the needle. We make a dent." And someone did.
17 Some Days
This decal is somewhat apt, considering the manufacturer of the car it is affixed to has been missing since 2010, when Ford axed their pseudo-luxury Mercury brand. The United States has an average of 90,000 missing persons on any given day, so with a total US population of 328,348,166, the person driving this vehicle has a 0.02% of being a missing person at any given time, statistically speaking. Luckily, the majority of missing person cases are resolved and the number of missing persons in the US has declined since 2004.
16 Other People Exist
Solipsism is a philosophical theory that contends that one’s mind is the only thing that exists and that the external world, including other minds, does not or may not exist. René Descartes doubted the existence of the outside world, yet found illumination in the idea of "Cogito Ergo Sum" ("I think therefore I am"), noting that doubting his own existence proved his own existence. The driver of this purple Toyota Yaris obviously subscribes to the idea of naïve realism, whereby the observer’s senses are said to provide an accurate perception of the outside world. Or they are just trying to be funny, in a peculiar way.
15 Da Best Potholes
Water is one of the only liquids that expands when it freezes, which is a good thing because it causes ice to float. If ice did not float, much of the world’s fresh water might sink to the bottom of the ocean at the poles and lakes and rivers would freeze solid in the colder months. The downside is that expanding ice gets into cracks in the road, causing them to break up and eventually become potholes. Being in a colder US state, Michigan residents have the pleasure of experiencing some of the worst potholes Mother Nature and shoddy engineering can offer. Or, more accurately, “da Best Potholes," as this sticker proclaims.
The grammatical structure of this decal makes it all the more interesting; the message is clear and concise, even if is not poetic in its delivery. It is rare for a vehicle to lack cruise control these days and just as rare to find a driver that strictly adheres to the posted speed limits. One just hopes that the driver of this Kia does not hang out in the left lane while doing only the speed limit, as this would be infuriating to most drivers and could possibly be a safety concern.
This is another video game reference that is likely lost on those of us who see more than one hour of sunlight in a given month. WWGFD stands for “What Would Gordon Freeman Do” which an obvious play on the WWJD acronym made famous by those who see the sun on Sundays. Gordon Freeman is a fictional character from the video game Half Life who is a theoretical physicist from MIT and a crowbar is his signature weapon. Personally, I would have presumed a fictional theoretical physicist would wield some sort of experimental, brain-exploding particle beam, but what do I know.
12 I Don’t Run
This sticker is a humorous take on a somewhat obscure trend whereby runners put the distances they have run on stickers and plaster them on their vehicles like badges of honor. This happy driver has proclaimed their distance as 0.0, with the foot note that they don’t actually run. It is an esoteric joke, likely to simply confuse those of us who prefer other forms of exercise (and/or transportation) and mildly annoy those that do understand it. It has been said that if a joke needs to be explained, it is not funny.
“Ya, well, you know, that’s just like, ah, your opinion, man," said The Dude. It has been said that opinions are like, um, backsides: everyone has one and they all stink. This Texas driver has likely seen enough opinions plastered on cars and trucks around them and decided to express their own amusing, purposely vague, social commentary on the common bumper sticker. Punctuating it, literally, with an exclamation mark, helps express their ambiguous viewpoint to the maximum effect, although if this decal came in a version with bright neon flashing LEDs, this driver would surely have selected it.
10 Fetal Position
Assuming the fetal position can be the result of physical or psychological trauma, it can be used to protect a person’s head and vital organs, and it is also one of the more natural and comfortable positions familiar to humans. Is this driver’s desire to be in the fetal position a result of some internal pain or strife, a need to protect oneself from the outside world, a wish to be cozy and comfortable, or a result of severe regret for purchasing a Ford Focus? The fact that they wish to be sobbing, as well, leads me to believe the latter.
9 My Other Ride
General Motors created the Saturn brand in 1985 as a way to battle the smaller, efficient cars from Japan that were flooding the domestic market and the brand started mass production in 1990. Named for the rocket, not the sixth planet from our Sun, Saturn cars originally had a unique feature where their vehicle’s body panels were plastic and their showrooms were strictly haggle-free. Uranus, the seventh planet from the Sun, is the third largest in diameter, after Jupiter and Saturn, and is considered an “ice giant” planet. The lower depths of the ice are partially composed of the chemical compound CH4, which means methane has been found in Uranus.
On a basic level, computers deal with numbers, such that letters are represented using a code of numbers. Unicode is an international standard of codes that utilizes letters and other characters. The Unicode Standard is used worldwide and allows different computers, operating systems, software, devices, and applications to communicate effectively. In Unicode, the question mark in a black diamond box is called a “replacement character” and used when there is a problem with the Unicode data. As such, this decal translates to “I (mistake in the data) Unicode.” Is that funny? If you are a programmer, please let me know.
7 Hey Moon
Putting the title of your favourite song on a sticker and placing it on your car’s bumper is something not often seen, at least in my experience. Putting the title of a song by a Swedish songwriter whose primary website is hosted on Bandcamp is more than just a little cryptic. Another possibility might be that they simply found this sticker, not knowing that it was a song title, and simply enjoyed the interesting imagery it created, like a small child greeting the evening moonrise.
This decal requires prior knowledge of Kevin Smith’s follow-up to his first independent film, Clerks. Mallrats is Jason Lee’s first film and the quote on the sticker is of him exasperated that a small child is repeatedly riding the escalator in the mall in an unsafe manner. The true punchline comes in a later scene where there is a scream in the background and someone screams, “There’s a little boy caught in the escalator!” Like many others on this list, this is a “you had to be there” kind of inside joke.
5 Ladies Sewing Circle
The LSCTS was formed in 1974 in Eugene, Oregon, to raise awareness about feminism through creative textile making. Julia Bryan-Wilson discusses this and the recent phenomenon of “craftivism” in her book, “Fray: Art and Textile Politics”. In it, Bryan-Wilson discusses the links between amateur textile making, politics, protest cultures, gender, and queer identities. The irony of the name—uniting a sewing circle with extremism—is a play on the idea that females are to be civil and subservient, but when brought together their discussions can be political, radical, and disobedient.
4 Auntie Em
The context of this bumper sticker relates to the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland as Dorothy. Dorothy is unhappy with her home life in Kansas, is swept away by a tornado, and ends up in the magical Land of Oz. There, she embarks on an adventure to attempt to return to her home, finally achieving her goal by tapping the heels of her enchanted ruby slippers and repeating, “There’s no place like home.” The message of this decal, however, conveys a different interpretation of the story as compared to the conventional reading of Dorothy being happy to return to her beloved Kansas: that of Dorothy having to settle for retreating back to a life she was not satisfied with. Pure r/FunnySad material.
The Monty Python’s Flying Circus television show debuted on the BBC in October, 1969, featuring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam (the lone US citizen in a group of Brits), Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. This sketch comedy group would go on to create numerous shows, albums, and movies that would inspire generations of comedy writers and actors for half a century and their influence continues to this day. None other than Simpsons creator Matt Groening has declared the Pythons as a major influence. Oh, wait, that says “Pynchon”? Never mind.
Functional Abnormal Pain Syndrome (FAPS) is a disorder that causes abdominal pain due to issues with the nerve impulses linking the gut to the brain. This causes even small stimuli in the intestines can be misinterpreted by the brain as severe pain. FAPS may be caused by an infection in or injuries to the abdomen and unfortunately, the disorder is very difficult to diagnose. Treatment typically does not completely eliminate the pain of FAPS, such that pain management is often the goal, potentially through meditation, hypnosis, or cognitive behavioral therapy.
This strange variation gives a more specific medical reason for needing to use the washroom in the very near future, attempting, as it does, that certain needs justify the breaking of certain traffic laws. A type of inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease does, indeed, sometimes cause the sufferer to need to go number two on an urgent basis. Jokingly broadcasting this fact to the world via a message on the back of your vehicle is not typically necessary—at least, I hope not.
Sources: IMDb, Mental Floss, Mashable, The Upright Cyclist, and Keep Portland Weird.