Humor is Being Mis-Labeled

The fact that I hold a serious dislike for labels is no secret. For the most part, I go to great efforts to avoid them. One way in which I specifically try to avoid them is by refusing to place decals and bumper stickers on my car, partly because I think it is indicative of a struggle to realize one’s identity (which I think I’m relatively comfortable with…well, I think), and partly because I think it is just tacky. In the interest of full disclosure, though, I must also admit that I fall momentarily short here. I have a customized license plate, because a percentage of the proceeds went to benefit Virginia’s arts programs. I also have an Apple decal on my back glass (somehow, labeling myself as a Mac user isn’t problematic…hmmm, perhaps it should be). Otherwise, I avoid these things passionately.

Karen and I were having a conversation about observations recently. You tend to notice things about people you see often but don’t necessarily know, such as the style of clothing that they wear, or the types of vehicles they drive. I made such an observation about our new neighbor, and Karen pointed out that these sorts of observations couldn’t lead to an conclusive picture as to someone’s personality. I agree totally, but at the same time, it is one of the first steps of observation in forming a clinical picture of someone, and it is a habit which tends to spill over from my professional life to my personal. Returning to the bumper sticker/decal discussion, I was behind a large pickup truck in traffic a week or so ago. Among the labels adorning the back glass of the truck were a sticker for rugby, a U.S. Marine Corps license plate, and one that proclaimed “Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body.” I feel I could form a relatively accurate summary as to primary personality characteristics of that driver.

Sometimes, though, I encounter a series contradictory messages that, at best, strike me as ironic, and at worst leave me baffled. For example, a truck parked a few buildings over from us is covered in bumper stickers. One urges its readers to “Raise Clams, Not Subdivisions.” A worthy sentiment, but ironic considering it is parked in an apartment complex.

Today, however, I was behind a truck in traffic again that moved me surpassed irony and left me in complete confusion. The decals on the back of this particular truck included “Vegetarian,” a peace sign, and (again) the U.S. Marine Corps. Perhaps there is an identity crisis at work? Perhaps a used vehicle that was already adorned, and then added to by its owner?

Or perhaps someone with an excellent sense of humor that enjoys messing with people like me. If so, it was without a doubt the most humorous joke I’ve read all day.


  1. Very funny observation, Dave. A couple years back I was completely confused by an individual that I was attempting to label. I was meeting a friend at a Lynchburg tennis court and realized that he was already hitting with a guy. The young man looked to be of an Asian background, was wearing tight Wrangler jeans, cowboy boots, a magenta silk long-sleeved dress shirt, and a blaze orange hunting cap. Not all that weird, but he was playing tennis and playing very well. Soon after I arrived he said goodbye and walked off to his newer black Acura sedan and left the parking lot blasting techno music. To this day I believe that he may have been conducting a sociology experiment. I would like to see what bumper stickers he would have on his vehicle.

    Nate Ortiz

  2. Good post! This sounds like the type of humor my friend has. For his own enjoyment, he regularly tells false stories to people he meets just to mess with them. I’m just waiting for him to have a PETA sticker and “The only good cat is a dead cat” sticker next to each other on his truck.

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