Auto Biography

Afternoon rush hour is normally something I try to avoid, but sometimes you have no choice. This was one of those times. My son had to be picked up from his rehearsal at middle school, so I grabbed a soft drink and saddled up.

If one uses the ‘glass half full’ mindset, rush hour traffic guarantees you a certain amount of time for sitting in one place, listening to the best that satellite radio has to offer, and observing the world — all from the comfort of your own vehicle. As I sat in line waiting for the light to change, I thought about how a decade earlier there was no rush hour on this piece of road. Oh, the times, they are a-changin’.

Wait. How did Bob Dylan get in my head? I switched the radio from the 60’s station to the 70’s station.

One cycle of the traffic light and 40 feet later, I saw that the Starbucks looked to be pretty busy. Someone was leaving after paying four dollars for a shot glass of caffeine and cup full of foam, so I made a spot and let her in front of me. She waved her thanks and pulled her Denali into traffic.

At that point, I began to learn a lot about the woman in the Denali.

She was the mother in a family of four. Her husband liked to play golf. She had a son, a daughter, one dog and two cats. The dog was a dachshund. Her son, Heath, was a little league all-star who wore #7 and played shortstop. Her daughter, Peyton, took dance at the local dance academy and was a cheerleader. Both children played soccer. Three years ago, on October 20, her father had passed away at the age of 74. Their family preferred Apple products.

I learned all of this from the back of her Denali.

The family members were detailed in stick figures in the lower left corner of the back glass, pets included. The ‘father’ stick figure was carrying a golf bag. There was a decal in the upper left corner for her son’s baseball accomplishments. The decal included his name (first name and last initial), number, and position. The upper right corner was occupied by two decals, a decal for the daughter’s dance academy and a decal of a megaphone. Both had the daughter’s first name. The lower right corner of the back glass sported the Apple logo.

The center of the back glass contained a larger “In Memory Of — ” decal that included the person’s date of birth and date of death. “We Miss You Daddy” was written below the dates. The last name of the person on the memorial decal started with a different letter than the initial on the son’s baseball decal, so one could assume that it was the wife’s father. This assumption also gives us the woman’s maiden name.

The back of the Denali itself had two identical magnets from the local soccer association placed side-by-side. Also on the back of the vehicle was a magnet that told the world how much they loved their dachshund. This identified the breed of the stick figure dog on the back glass.

There wasn’t anything in particular that identified the mother. I guess there’s not a decal for ‘oversharer’.

There have been bumper stickers as long as there have been bumpers. Noah probably had a ‘God Is My Co-Pilot’ bumper sticker on the back of the ark. Bumper stickers used to be nothing more than some witty saying, like ‘You Watch My Rear — I’ll Watch Hers’ or ‘Bowling Is Up My Alley’. Every four years you’d see new campaign stickers, normally strategically placed right over the top of the old campaign stickers.

Then there was the advent of the diamond-shaped sign that proclaimed ‘BABY ON BOARD’. This was a bit of personal information about the driver, but nowhere near the ‘oversharing’ boundary. They were originally designed to serve a purpose — to let first responders know to look for an infant in the event that the vehicle was in an accident. The first one you saw was a novelty. Then they were everywhere. Before long there were ‘PRINCESS BEHIND WHEEL’ signs, ‘BARE IN BACK SEAT’ signs — signs, signs, everywhere signs.

Okay, that was Five Man Electrical Band. I switched the radio from the 70’s station to the 80’s station.

After the signs came the ‘Honor Student’ stickers. These little gems get right up to the ‘oversharing’ boundary. No one but the driver of the vehicle in question could possibly care if the child in the car was an honor student, an average student, or a 17 year old kindergartener. Unlike ‘BABY ON BOARD’, they served no practical function. Their sole purpose for existence was to be used to inflate the ego of both the child and the parent. Not long behind those came the ‘My Dog Is Smarter Than Your Honor Student’ stickers, then the ‘My Gamer Fragged Your Honor Student’ stickers — all kinds of ‘Honor Student’ stickers. The sticker was making a comeback. Out on the road today, I saw a Dead Head sticker on a Cadillac.

Hmmmm. Don Henley needed to get out of my head. I switched the radio to from the 80’s station to the Real Jazz station so I could get some serious thinking done.

As I sat in traffic staring at the back of the Denali, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t really need to know that much about the woman in front of me. Why was she giving out all of this information? Could she be hoping that it would affect my decision as to whether or not to let her in front of me if I knew that she’d lost a loved one three years ago? Does she think the fact that her child is an all-star shortstop gives her a ‘Get Out Of Road Rage Free’ card she could use after cutting someone off at some future date and time?

No, I decided. It’s not about anyone else on the road. It’s pretty much all about her flailing her arms and screaming, “Hey everyone!!! Look at meeeeeeeee!!!”

If someone wants to use the back of their car to share that much information with me, it would be nice if the information was useful. A listing of her last five traffic violations, including the dates and law(s) violated — that could be pertinent. The name and number of her insurance agent could be a great time saver in case of an accident. Or, if she was really in the mood to overshare, a listing of all prescription medicines being taken would let me know if she could be breaking the ‘Don’t Operate Heavy Machinery While Taking This Drug’ warning on the bottle.

With a little ingenuity, we could even come up with signals in the back glass that would light up to tell the people behind her even more about her. A yellow light could mean she was nodding off. A red light could mean that she is in an argument with someone on her cell phone and isn’t paying attention to the road. A blue light could mean that she is texting and shouldn’t be disturbed until she’s done. The possibilities were limitless.

About this time the Denali pulled into the middle school parking lot. Since I was heading to the same school, I pulled in behind her. Young Peyton was standing on the sidewalk in her cheerleader uniform. She pulled the passenger side door of the Denali open and climbed in to the seat. My son’s rehearsal still had about 10 more minutes to go, so I found a parking space.

I chuckled to myself as I watched the Denali drive off. Having your life story on the back of your vehicle is terribly narcissistic. No, it’s more than that. This person, I decided, is not happy unless she’s the absolute center of attention. So much so, in fact, that she’s practically the poster child for oversharing.

Shaking my head, I reached into the pocket of my jeans for my iPhone. I couldn’t wait to tell this to the folks on Facebook.