from October 19, 2003
What do bumper stickers have to do with the problem of the shrinking world on which MJTT has been working?
We must acknowledge that our work on the sinking world hypothesis is on hold. As we explained in an earlier blog, our first step toward solving this vexing problem was to send half a dozen interns down to bayou country to learn pidgin Cajun, this in order to learn why a significant acreage of the state of Louisiana is sinking.
Recently we received a brief email from one of the interns, who informed us that the sextet has yet to make its way to Cajun country. These young persons are, it seems, still in New Orleans, enjoying the restaurant scene, attending Saints games, and paying nightly visits to Bourbon Street—all, the writer explained, in order to “get the lay of the land” before venturing into the bayous.
I of course responded to this missive by instructing them to follow the orders I had given them before sending them on this mission. I have yet to receive an answer.
But MJTT is a multi-tasking organization. In the meantime, we have been working on a more practical matter: a rear bumper on which is attached a streaming marquee.
The need for such a device became obvious to me while motoring on the local interstate. I observed that well over 84 percent of the vehicles on the road sported bumper stickers advertising their owners’ political and/or religious views, announcing their child’s academic achievements, or displaying a clever jest. Of these vehicles, approximately 91 percent exhibited two or more such stickers.
Given the speed at which the ordinary interstate vehicle travels, a high percentage (roughly 95 percent) of these brief missives are difficult to read. The exception, of course, is rush hour traffic, during which the poor motorist who is stuck behind a sticker-laden bumper must suffer the boredom of reading the same messages over and again.
The solution to both circumstances came to me as a bolt from the blue similar, I surmise, to that which struck Isaac Newton, Madame Curie, Albert Einstein, and others of our ilk. Why not invent a bumper equipped with a large, legible streaming marquee capable of exhibiting an unlimited number of messages?
Such a marquee could be preprogrammed by the vehicle’s owner. It could also be programmed on the run—a keyboard could be embedded in the steering wheel for special occasions. (I am thinking of the many instances in which I have come across a car with a wobbly rear tire, a situation that has incited me to pass it, honking and pointing to the dangerous wheel, an act that often as not has caused the driver to respond by flashing an obscene gesture. This invention would eliminate that inferior mode of communication. The discerning driver would simply type a short message—YOUR LEFT REAR TIRE IS WOBBLING—and proceed to pass the offending vehicle, then moving adeptly into the proper lane.)
Granted, not all messages would be so magnanimous and humanitarian. I can envision a Volvo driving along advertising the fact, MY SON IS WORKING ON A PHD IN SELF-ASSEMBLING MONOLAYERS AT CAL TECH, followed by a Hummer whose driver is furiously programming in the information, MY SUN IZ MIDLE LINEBECHER FOR USC AN CAN BRAKE EVERY BONE IN YOU’RE SUNZ BODDY.
But I have a firm faith in the essential goodness of humanity. I believe that 54 percent of the drivers on the road would use this invention for positive purposes.