Today, I began the journey that will end with my car being sold: I removed all of the stickers. As I was peeling and razor-blading them away, I had an odd feeling that I was someone forcibly removing tattoos from another person. Tied down, gag in their mouth, as I scraped and laser-ed all visual personality from their body.
Tito Rodriquez, as my car is affectionately named, has been with me since 1997. I remember picking him up from the dealership, a blank canvas for vinyl and ink. Tito's first was a black dragon on the inside, back passenger's side window. It was trendy, dragon's where in; to Tito it was a way of saying my owner was born in the Year of the Dragon. A powerful statement: Don't mess with me. My owner will kick your ass. Tito's second was on the opposite window, the back driver's side window. It was the classic PETA "Meat is Murder" circle with the cow in the center. Another statement claiming that the owner of this car didn't eat animals. It is a hardcore statement and one that I stand behind, but there was a tinge of humor in it as well. I know I am outnumbered and that everyone will still eat meat, but this sticker forced them to think, if just for an instant, that it is wrong. Over the years, I have receive many a finger and dirty look, but also praise, waves, and smiles. The third was commemorating a Spring Break trip to Key West. A great week filled with wonderful friends. It was a slogan sticker placed in the center of the back window that said "One Human Family" which is the motto of the city of Key West. All around town you could see it stuck to everything: mailboxes, store windows, street furniture. Many times the sticker had been cut to only say "One Human." The forth, and final piece of body art was the Human Rights Campaign logo: the blue square with the yellow equal symbol. This was placed next to the license plate. It was Tito's subtle way to say that his hot driver is queer and political.
This final sticker actually replaced a small rainbow sticker the was in the middle of the licence plate but deemed illegal (for being ON the plate) by a very hot officer that pulled me over for doing 50 in a 30 in my neighborhood back home. I only got a warning. And when my friends and I went to the beach once, Tito was the only car that didn't have parking ticket on the windshield. It pays to let people know who you are, I say.
I still have a few steps before my car is ready for market. A thorough cleaning and wash, maybe a detail. Tito wasn't my first car, but when I am in New York City subwaying, taxi-ing and walking to and fro, it will be Tito Rodriguez that I think about fondly and hope that the person that bought him from me has plastered his body with their own car tattoos and drives him rough, just the way he likes it.