Bumper Sticker of the Week

Not my mother. A generation and several hemline inches removed, but remember those steering wheels? Sex tries to sell seatbelts, but stats and hefty fines finally do the trick.

Even long after she had no more little ones in the car, far past the time when buckling up became law – and then suddenly the absolute minimum expectation of parental responsibility – my mother had a reflexive connection between her right foot and hand. When her foot lunged from accelerator to brake pedal, her right hand made a karate-worthy swipe to restrain front-seated kiddies who were no longer there. Through the 1950s and most of the 1960s, this was her automotive child-protection toolkit, that and her lip-chewing, white-knucklingly slow driving. I didn’t get the habit of seatbelt use until I was driving myself. Can you imagine?

You’d have no trouble imagining if you were in China. Here, safety consciousness in cars is about at the mid-1960s level (so, by the way, are popular music, workplace equity, and pollution control). It’s becoming part of the conversation, I think, but most people don’t buckle up, and it is routine to see grandparents and well-coiffed young mummies holding babies on their laps in the front seat. There must be trendy, upper-middle-class parents who have infant and child car-seats, but I haven’t noticed one yet.

What I did see the other day was an amber Ford Focus with a bumper sticker that is becoming more popular here, the announcement that there was a “baby on board”. This has struck me as well-intentioned but a bit ridiculous on North American bumpers – do parents think it affects the driving of others? Do tailgaters back off for bumper  babies? – and even more so in Chinese traffic. (And no, there was no baby-seat in the back.) Hey, wait a minute. I’d had my little ritual smile as I jogged past the Focus, but something seemed off, beyond the general silliness of the bumper sticker as a road safety mechanism, and this particular instance of Chinese tailgaters being warned off by an English bumper sticker.

I changed my planned running route so I could take another look, and I was glad I did. “Chinglish” is a bit of a guilty pleasure for ex-pats here, and a word-nerd like me couldn’t help but be charmed by the sticker on second glance. A cute little cartoon image of a bottle-feeding infant was supported by a slogan that was a really good try. Baby On Road, it read.

This is the exact sticker, before (lost-in) translation to Chinglish.

Thanks for the warning, I smirked as I ran on.

Comment (1)

  1. Sherri Yazdani

    Fun post! Love the insight into Chinese culture…mind you, I never understood the “Baby on Board” stickers in the first place!

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