By Nick Mottern, Director, ConsumersforPeace.org
In August 2005 I had “U.S. Out of Iraq” put on each side of my Prius to make a statement stronger than I felt would be made by a bumper sticker. As I watched the sign “painter” stick the black vinyl lettering to my silver-gray car, it was apparent that the choice of lettering and the size would make the sign look almost official, as if my car was from the U.S. Department of U.S. Out of Iraq.
My girl friend was skeptical about the signs, wondering whether someone would damage my car because they didn’t like the message. And she, and I, also wondered whether the signs were a wasted gesture.
After over a year of driving with them, mostly in the northeast, I am very happy to report that the contrary is true. At least once a day, on average, and probably more, the signs get approval. The most common remark is: “I couldn’t agree more”. One young woman in an SUV who was stopped next to me at a traffic light shouted over that my car should be in an ad for Toyota.
An Iraq War veteran who had been a military policeman came over to talk to me in a supermarket parking lot when I was visiting in Vermont. Initially, he said he thought the U.S. should stay in Iraq, but after talking for a while he acknowledged that a lot of mistakes have been made and that we should leave.
While we were having lunch in an Indian restaurant in New Rochelle, New York, someone left a note on the windshield with a photocopy of a page from a report by the National Resources Defense Council outlining steps the Chinese have taken to cut gasoline consumption.
The most common non-verbal message is a thumbs up, usually preceded by honking. A short while ago, I looked over at a white Chrysler 300 passing me and saw the woman in the passenger seat applauding.
People seem extremely happy to see the sign, as though they are seeing a friend they have been missing or something that made them feel welcome. They often ask if anyone has tried to trash the car and seem surprised to find the answer is no. I judge that the sign is a kind of fear chaser.
About 95 percent of the responses that I have gotten have been positive. Of the favorable responses, about 80 percent come from women. The reasons are not clear. It may be that the message appeals more to women than men. It may be that women are more comfortable voicing their opinion.
The most common unfavorable response is the thumbs down. The next most common is the frowning shaking head. Only a few objectors have given me the finger. A memorable experience of this genre was a man in the backseat of a black Cadillac who kept making the gesture through the back window of the car as it passed, then appeared to kneel on the seat so he could display his T-shirt. He was so angry that I slowed down, so I could not see what was on the T-shirt because he was too far ahead.
The beauty of the signs are that they are working all the time, even when I forget they are there. When this happens, it sometimes takes a few seconds for me to understand why a stranger is waving at me or giving me a thumbs up.
The expressions of approval have been increasing in number and intensity of feeling.
Try it, you’ll like it.