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By Shelley Murphy
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and in the spirit of the season I share a holiday story for 2020.
We begin on a blustery December morning as I drive to Starbucks for a cup of good cheer.
I pull into a parking space and notice a sedan parked to my right. Exiting my car, I see a somewhat masked man with two cups of liquid caffeine walking toward the vehicle.
I dart inside to grab my coffee, then return to my car, remove my mask, and restart my engine. Out pulls the sedan on my right.
Checking my rearview mirror, I see that vehicle stop behind me. I wait. Then I realize, the sedan is parked behind me.
I get out of my vehicle, look at the driver through his open passenger window, shrug my shoulders and say, “What’s up?”
From behind the wheel of his automobile, the man bellows, “What’s up is you’re going to know what it feels like to have your constitutional rights taken away! I’ll block your car all day, so you know how it feels!”
We engage in quick colorful conversation that culminates with me saying, “I’m calling the police.”
Seconds later, the guy speeds off, briefly stops at a red turn signal, then blows through the stoplight almost striking a pedestrian in the crosswalk.
Amidst the action, I managed to take a clear picture of the cotton-headed ninny muggins’ license plate. And I contemplated sending the photo to Santa for the Naughty List.
Mulling over the matter, I imagine the man-child’s temper tantrum was probably prompted by a bumper sticker on my car’s rear end.
What I can’t imagine is becoming so infuriated by a bumper sticker that someone morphs into a manic bully.
But the man’s motivation remains a mystery; before speeding off, he failed to enlighten me and explain which constitutional rights my two bumper stickers breach.
I’m sure the irony was lost on him as he shouted at me for violating his constitutional rights, that my bumper stickers are an expression of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
I shared my seasonal story with friends who reacted with surprise, shock and sadness.
One referred to him as a male version of a Karen.
For those without internet access, the rise of the slang expression “Karen” comes from a popular social media site.
Describing a person as a Karen is comparable to calling someone a Scrooge from A Christmas Carol—he’s synonymous with somebody who’s stingy with money.
Karen is a pejorative term describing a shrill middle-aged, white woman who embodies entitlement, aggression and arrogance.
On a sidenote, there isn’t an equivalent male nickname for a middle-aged, white man who exemplifies privilege, belligerence, and superiority.
Karen bullied its way into our lexicon, but she’s without a male counterpart. The internet tried Ken, Chad, and Jerome, but it struggles to settle on a masculine moniker. But, I digress.
My two bumper stickers were not stuck on my car to engage or enrage anyone. I positioned them on my car’s rear bumper to hide the cavernous scrape marks made by our garage door, when my husband closed it without realizing my car sat directly in its path.
I consider bumper stickers a trivial and entertaining social interaction between strangers, not an invitation to initiate combative conversations or prompt perilous attacks.
But I also acknowledge bumper stickers say a lot without articulating a word.
Long ago, I remember watching a movie and chuckling when an attorney asks a prospective juror, “Do you have a bumper sticker?” and “What does it say?”
The attorney’s aim is to craft a quick judgment about someone, like the protagonist in our parable.
Mine is an unusual holiday story, but it’s 2020—a year when nothing is normal.
In the spirit of the season, and the year, perhaps I’ll add another bumper sticker to my car: Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward All.
For more than 20 years, Shelley Murphy and her husband have lived in San Clemente, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.