I've never been a fan of vanity plates or bumper stickers or really anything that makes your car recognizable to anyone else. I distinctly remember a few families from my childhood who had vanity plates -- usually something about their last name or the number of kids they had. I remember my mother saying, "looks like Mrs. So and So is at the store too as we noticed her 3BOYS license plate in the parking lot."
My parents weren't into the vanity plates. We weren't into bumper stickers, either -- especially those "My kid is an honor student at ABC Elementary School." Who cares? We didn't. I was never a fan of the "Honk If You Love Me" stickers, and while I am politically active, I never liked when people expressed their political beliefs all over their bumpers. Then came the "Baby on Board" signs. It was kind of a safety thing and a sales gimmicky thing. I got it, but still, I held strong to my anti-car sign beliefs. I drove a naked car most of my driver's license-holding life. I felt good about it.
That streak is over. I'm almost as guilty as the annoying honor student bumper sticker people. I have magnets on my car. It seems that most everyone does these days. Does that make it any better? The magnets can be removed so that helps -- I guess.
Full disclosure: My SUV has two magnets on it: One from each of my children's summer camps. That's it. That's all I got. I drew the line there. Why do I allow them when I used to pride myself on driving incognito?
My kids love their camps (true, my daughter hasn't yet been to her camp, but she tells me she will love it and I believe her). We really like their camp owners, it's good PR for them and those magnets make my kids happy. I can live with that. It's not like my license plate says HOTSTUF or anything, right?
The thing is, though, that I've now lost my driving anonymity. People now know my whereabouts, and I theirs. They know it's my car in the grocery store parking lot, the new restaurant in town and even at a kind of random and faraway mall where one person asked me what I was doing there when she saw me at a later date. I might ask the same of said lady, right? Not sure if anyone cares where I am or if I should care where they are. Still, note to self: Stay away from the sketchy joints in town that could put my whereabouts in a compromising situation.
Since my car got dressed up in magnets, I notice other car magnets, too. And there are so many: Car magnets from camps, schools, sports teams, gymnastics teams, dance teams, vacation destinations and those peace, love whatever your pleasure ones. They are all fine by me. I get it. Your kids are showing pride in their activities and you like to go that beach. We are good.
I must say that I am kind of impressed when I see those marathon magnets on people's cars. I am green with envy of those who ran 26.2 miles, 13.1 miles and don't even get me started on those half and full Ironman magnets at 70.3 and 140.6. I can't drive that far without stopping for coffee. Good for you, I say to myself. I'm not sure that I'd feel compelled to announce something like that on my car, but hey, you never know. I did laugh out loud one day on the road when I spotted a car with a 0.0 magnet on it. Point well taken.
Here's where the jury's still out for me: The magnets that express what the whole family is up to with no PR purpose at all. You know the ones with the stick figures of the entire crew with the dad holding a brief case, the mom with one too (or sometimes a shopping bag and I don't like the stereotypes in that one), the boy holding the baseball bat, the girl doing the backflip (impressive move!), the dog holding the bone and the three cats (do they really have three cats?!) I just think that's taking it too far. Do we really need to know who exactly is in your family and what you do all day when we pass you on the highway? I don't think so.
The paranoid mom in me also wonders if some crazy carjacker will take note of your cute and very active family members displayed in sketch drawings on the outside of your car and hit you up. Crazy I know, but our days of undercover driving are clearly over. So I think we really just need to go with it.
I can do that, and if you see me in my SUV with my two camp magnets, give me a honk. I promise to honk back (but not because I love you.)