A Father's Journal: Struggling to 'Coexist' with bumper bummers on I-95
I have driven more than 150,000 miles on I-95, the nation's primary East Coast artery. Yet I-95 is only 1,920 miles, or 3,090 kilometers, long. I like to use kilometers. It makes me sound scientific, or European.
I-95 starts just south of downtown Miami and it stretches to the Canadian border a little east of Houlton, Maine. There are countless fascinating historical places in between. Most of my miles have been driving through Norwalk.
I have driven on I-95 as far south as Jacksonville, Fla., and as far north as southern Maine. However, the vast majority of my mileage is the same stretch between Southport and Stamford. For more than 20 years, I have driven either my car or a company vehicle to Stamford and back. I need a vehicle for work and often go to a client site on the way to Stamford, which makes taking the train difficult. I probably take the train once a month.
If I don't go early, I get stuck in traffic. Even if I do go early, I sometimes get stuck in traffic. I read bumper stickers on the cars ahead of me. I have plenty of time to read them. Our area is continuously ranked in the country's Top 10 Worst Corridors for Car Commuting. One year we're sixth, another year maybe seventh, but we're always up there.
Most of the bumper stickers are fine. People are proud of their kids, some are proud of their dogs, some are proud of their sexuality. I don't really like bumper stickers. My aunt Rita never liked them and passed this disdain on to her nieces and nephews.
"It just gives the police a reason to pull you over," she would say. My aunt was slightly paranoid. "What business is it of theirs to see who you voted for?"
She also taught us how to play poker and bridge, and the worst thing you could do, according to her, is show your cards.
There is one bumper sticker that I hate. It seems benign, even helpful at first glance, but after you have been staring at it for a half hour creeping through Darien, you begin to hate it -- and hate the driver. The first time I realized I hated it was last year.
There was construction work near Exit 14, and two lanes needed to merge. We were all in a slow crawl. If cars are merging, everyone knows you "zipper" -- you go, I go, you go, I go, like two sides of a zipper coming together. This one driver apparently had never heard of the concept and tried to jam in behind another car from the same lane. The driver refused to look at me and just pushed in. We practically touched, but the driver kept looking away -- as, if the driver didn't see me, I wasn't there.
Against my seething anger, I let the car in. It was either that or mix a little paint.
The car had a bumper sticker that said "Coexist." And not just with letters but with cutesy symbols that represent all the world's religions and cultures. I hate that bumper sticker. As I rode behind it, it occurred to me that not only do I hate this non-zipper driver; I resent all people with that bumper sticker.
This particular car had both a "Coexist" sticker and one that espoused a political view. So these bumper stickers were trying to influence me. They were trying to get me to think like they did -- which is the exact opposite of coexisting. It was saying, "Let's everyone coexist on my terms, by my definition."
It was a long commute.
Drivers who truly wanted to coexist with me would have bumper stickers on their dashboards for them to read. And they would say, "Don't try to get people to think like you do. Coexist with them. Don't' try to get them to coexist with you. Also, don't try to force the zipper."
On my commute, I often recognize the same cars with their bumper stickers. Like an anonymous uncle, I share their pride in an offspring making the honor roll at Shelton Intermediate School. It reflects well on their parenting. I appreciate that my fellow travelers love their Corgis and that some think the Corgis are smarter than the honor roll kids. I really don't think so, but I will humor my commuting brothers. It's all part of coexisting.
Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Friday. He can be reached by email at Tlawlor@mcommunications.com .