Friday, December 14, 2012

Why I Don't Put Bumper Stickers On My Car

When I got to be old enough to drive, I wanted to show my love or appreciation for all kinds of things by buying bumper stickers for my car. It was the early 90's, so there was a healthy market for that kind of thing. My parents told me not to because the paint under the bumper sticker would fade at a different rate than the paint on the rest of the car, and would look bad when the bumper sticker came off.

Now, more than 20 years later, I find that reasoning just as dumb as I did at 16 or 17. Who cares if the paint fades differently? I'll be trading the car in before I take the bumper sticker off. The faded paint is the wholesaler's problem.

But I've found a much better reason not to put bumper stickers on my car.
First, let me introduce you to a logical fallacy known as a "biased sample". Yeah, you hear it on the news every day. But we all commit them shamelessly.

So, this morning I was getting ready to turn onto the main road I take to get to the commuter lot where I leave my car and grab a ride to work (which we call "slugging").A car in front of me was very clearly driven by somebody who love pugs. Pugs are great dogs, but pug people themselves are weird. I once knew a woman who had two pugs and left the TV on for them to watch. The dogs had their own room in the house with a really nice TV and almost anything a person who lacks understanding of the difference between human and dog consciousness could consider pug luxury. (I've always put my dogs in cages or kennels when I leave the house. They've never complained.)

This car I was stuck behind had pug bumper stickers and a personalized license plate that very clearly communicates a love for pugs.

So now that the car has told me everything I need to know about the driver, the driver now fills in the rest of the details I need to know at 6 AM while I'm just trying to get to work (and the coffee pot). There was no oncoming traffic. The cross traffic had a red light. The left turn arrows for our side of the street and the other side turn green. It was a huge intersection, so there was plenty of time for the pug car and me to make the right turn before the left turn people from the other side of the street start, but the pug car keeps us both sitting there. Then we pull out after all the oncoming left turn traffic finishes. The pug car accelerates slowly, and keeps speeding up and slowing down. It also matches speed with a slow car in the right lane so now we're going under 40 in a 45 for several miles and there's no way to get around. To complicate things further, the car behind me was being driven by a bigger dick than me (a more aggressive driver in a bigger hurry), so every time pug car slows down and I let off the gas so I don't crash into it, buttplug behind me almost runs into me. Like it's my fault we can't even do the legal speed limit.

I finally got in the right lane behind a car willing to drive 41 or 42, and eventually get past the pug car. Hallelujah!

But now, I have a biased sample playing in my mind. Because 100% of pug loving drivers I've observed drive too slow and are clueless behind the wheel, I want to assume 100% of all pug loving drivers are the same. I know it's a logical fallacy, but I was frustrated so I'm happy to let it play out.

I've noticed a similar thing with drivers with Obama/Biden bumper stickers, and those stupid "Coexist" bumper stickers. They all seem to drive slow and clueless.

I had a dive flag on my car for a while, and at one point I had a bumper sticker that said "America is a republic, not a democracy" because I seem to be one of fewer than 20 people in the world who know that. That includes schoolteachers, Presidents, Congressman, news media, and pretty much everybody else.

But I generally avoid identifying markers on my car. I don't want people generating a biased sample based on me having an off day behind the wheel and applying it broadly to everybody else with the same markings on their cars.
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