I do a lot of driving, most of it highly tedious. Two miles to the grocery store. Six miles to the mall. Twelve miles to work. The sort where every minute seems to count because the whole trip is so wearisome. In that context, it doesn’t take much to piss me off. I start stereotyping. Big pick-up trucks are driven by reckless assholes; European sedans by condescending elitists.
And then there are the bumper stickers, which can drive me batty even when I mostly agree with the political worldview they promote. Does the world really need another “Coexist” message? Or a faded reminder that the owner once believed that Barack Obama was a metonym for change?
Sometimes, though, the stars align to produce a juxtaposition so perverse that it takes my breath away. The other day I was cut off by a Toyota Prius that then proceeded to slam on the brakes, making me miss a crucial left-turn arrow while it rolled through the intersection on red.
I was incensed. The drivers of hybrids are notoriously self-righteous, practically begging everyone else to praise them for saving the world, even though the giant batteries that save them so much money are far from ecologically sound. But in my experience, Prius owners are particularly egregious in this regard.
But the Prius also seems to be the car of choice for overly cautious drivers, the way Volvos were in the 1970s. If I see one in front of me, I change lanes as soon as I can. It’s almost as bad as having a bus ahead of you.
As luck would have it, the driver of the Prius that made me miss my turn was going so slowly that I soon caught up with him anyway. I was ready to hurl my best imprecations at the “soft” progressives who make the Left such an easy target, when I noticed something shocking: this particular vehicle was owned by someone with conservative politics.
That was an anti-Obama sticker on the lower left. And the wordy one on the middle right that I’d been unable to read before actually sported a pro-gun message: “If the first amendment doesn’t work, the second one will.” This bedeviling Prius was the equivalent of a sublime haiku, establishing relationships between outwardly disparate phenomena.
Was the owner of this car simply taking advantage of the car’s excellent gas mileage running errands about town? Or was he, rather, laying bare what I had long suspected, that mainstream environmentalism, far from being anti-establishment, had become an ideology so diffuse that Left and Right could embrace it with equal fervor?
Either way, I had to confess admiration at his ability to condense everything that annoys me on our roads into one plodding statement. It was so perfect, actually, that my antipathy was transmuted into a peaceful, easy feeling. If the car had also featured a “Coexist” bumper-sticker, I might have experienced my own personal Rapture on the spot.
Commentary and photograph by Charlie Bertsch