Sometimes, after a hard week, the smallest serendipities can do wonders. I was driving along, physically and emotionally spent, when I spied the sort of vehicle I photograph to use for this feature. Because it was a pick-up truck and because I was in a part of southern Arizona not noted for its liberalism, the “Jesus is coming” sticker I spotted first inspired dark thoughts. Surely this would turn out to be another one of the “Red State” specials that saturate the highways I travel, the sort that make me regret living in a place where I feel so outnumbered.
As I drew closer to the vehicle, though, I started to realize that my initial impression was almost entirely wrong. First I noticed the “I’m only speeding because I really have to poop” sticker on the left side of the tailgate, which demonstrates a sense of humor incompatible with my sense of the true ideologue. And then my eye was drawn to the top left of the cab’s rear window, which displays the “COEXIST” sticker that has become a cliché of the progressive NPR set.
Clearly, even if the owner of this pick-up was a committed Christian, he wasn’t the sort fixated on the perfidy of other religions. Or maybe she wasn’t the sort, I realized. That’s when I saw the “Viva la mujer!” sticker down on the bumper. Now excited by my find, I was hoping traffic wouldn’t start moving again before I could properly register the full extent of its decorative messaging.
I sped up my scanning: “Fast food is junk” in the upper right of the rear window; “Got crabs?”, that phrase wryly deployed to promote tourism in my one-time home of Maryland; “All I want is the same healthcare plan as Congress”; a small green-and-white sticker promoting cultural recycling from our local used book and record store; another for Tucson independent music station. And then, for the pièce de resistance, the iconic Andy Warhol banana from the first Velvet Underground album.
The more I took in, the more clear it became the owner was the sort of person I’d get along with, both earnest and irreverent. The sort of person which Tucson, for all of the state of Arizona’s problems, has in abundance, if you know where to look. For a moment, I was overcome with civic pride. To be sure, this isn’t the kind of experience that adds up to much in the end. But it was precisely the sort I needed to lift my spirits. Sometimes even the most passive solidarities mean a great deal.
Commentary by Charlie Bertsch. Photograph courtesy of the author.