Asheville is not quite as car-obsessed as Baltimore, my childhood home, where it always seemed like people were trying so hard to have the pimpest ride, right down to their eight-ball stick shift. And for whatever reason, I seem to have escaped the car obsession. I do understand why teenagers love them (escape from your dweeby parents, plus you can screw in the back seat), but in my adult world, when the car breaks down, it is just plain annoying—and of course, I have absolutely no idea how they even work, once you get beyond the concept of wheels.
Currently, I drive a Honda Civic. It’s quick, great on gas, and the interior smells like a blend of perfume and baby poop (most likely that Yankee Candle Air Freshener that never should’ve been removed from the plastic wrap; it has since been discarded due to side effects of nausea and dizziness). But the baby-poop smell is probably the real deal.
I ride around town with a kid in a car seat, a menagerie of exotic stuffed animals, and a very large dog who should be in the Canine Book of World Records for Sheds the Most Hairs on a Daily Basis. If I could knit, it’d be a great side business: local-dog-hair sweaters. Really, though, I should just wear a red nose that honks and bill myself as a clown, because that’s about what I feel like, piling in and out of my little car crammed full of crap. I drive around listening to the Wu-Tang Clan, but sadly, that will have to stop as soon as my daughter’s vocabulary reaches 50 words or she quotes Method Man, whichever happens first.
My husband drives a 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon; it’s sooooo Asheville. Believe it or not, though, both cars are bumper-sticker-free.
That’s one thing about this city I can’t decide if I love or hate: the plethora of bumper stickers on every car, even the really nice ones. Of course, there are also those vanity plates, which I love because they really get my brain juices flowing, trying to solve those cryptograms. But bumper stickers can be just plain obnoxious.
First of all, your car is not your Lisa Frank sticker-collection notebook! Second, why do I need to know all these things about you? I don’t care if your “other car is a pair of boots,” though I’m glad because the hiking really is first-class around here. I just hope you don’t have athlete’s foot or hammertoe or something. I also don’t care if you voted for Barack Obama or Carl Mumpower: Will this make you a better driver?
And those rainbow stickers make me automatically assume you’re gay, which is great—I’m happy for you! I hope you find a wonderful partner and live a beautiful, loving and discrimination-free life. Only please, do not abruptly brake or switch lanes without using your blinker because you suddenly decide to take a little trip to Bed Bath & Beyond.
Every now and again, I get really inspired by a bumper sticker, like “Peace begins with a Smile,” which makes me want to be a better person. But then I see the driver of the car yelling into a cell phone. Excuse me?
Then there’s “Stop Bitching. Start a Revolution.” I totally do not get this one. If you slap that onto your car, aren’t you kind of bitching? A wise man once said, “Don’t talk about it: Be about it.” That man was my husband. He might have gotten that from the Bible or the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Or some guy in a bar. I’m not really sure.
Some bumper stickers leave me puzzled, like “Save a Tree. Eat a Beaver.” I mean, I think I get it, but…
Probably the rudest bumper sticker I ever saw was on I-240, perhaps on a car from Tennessee. It read: Lost Dog and Wife. Reward for Dog.” Not surprisingly, a man was driving. There was a woman in the passenger seat—and she was crying. Yes, really.
Anyway, I’m trying to ride my bike more these days. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not out there in my spandex on my Gary Fisher. I ride what some might consider a beach cruiser. A friend commented recently that whenever she sees cyclists their faces look like this (making a face that was very pained and very scrunched), and indeed, I can sometimes be found making that very face as I pedal uphill in east Asheville. I grunt, sweat, pant and sometimes swear because—ahhhh! The burn! It’s worth it all for the downhill, though—even if I do sometimes brake like a little bitch.
For the most part, the drivers are pretty polite, doing everything right and abiding by the rules of the road. But every now and again, some jerk drives super close to me (because there’s no shoulder) or zooms by like a bat outta hell. SLOW DOWN! We bikers are using our bodies to power uphill, which is way more than any driver can say.
If we all biked or walked more, we’d start our own revolution. We’d be keeping the air cleaner; easing our culture’s addiction to fossil fuels; reducing the ceaseless killing of raccoons, rabbits and other furry woodland creatures; and even combating childhood obesity—all with a super-cool invention that ladies were once forbidden to ride. (Something about straddling the seat and the “exciting of spirits.”) So I do not want to hear any more noise or stories from drivers that begin with “This damned biker…”
Maybe what I’m trying to say is “Stop Bitching and Bike.” Or maybe “Keep Bitching and Bike.” But whatever it is, I don’t want to see it on a bumper sticker.
Kristin MacLeod likes the east Asheville librarians.