For various reasons far too personal to share here, I decided this week to remove three bumper stickers that have long adorned the back of my faithful station wagon. But getting these things off is more than just a simple peel-and-go job.
Here are some things you learn taking stickers off of your car:
- If you live in a shared apartment complex, as I do, you learn that there is no peaceful time to remove a bumper sticker from your car in a public space. No matter when you try it, there will be somebody coming by, and you will wonder if they think you are vandalizing someone's vehicle (no, just vandalizing my own), or if they are judging you.
- Thus, you learn that the least embarrassing time to act on removing your sticker is the dead of night.
- You learn that bumper stickers should be put on the glass part of your back window, not on the paint. Good God, please, not the paint. You learn that glass is much better, not because it's easier to remove the sticker from glass, but because it's easier to clean.
No matter where you're removing the sticker from, this is going to be onerous. You will not be happy while this is going on.
- You lean that, while the clear, plastic "decal" bumper stickers seem like they'd be easier to get off, a good old paper or vinyl sticker is the way to go if you think you might some day change your mind. One of the three stickers I removed was printed on thick, glossy papery stuff, and it came right off. Huzzah!
- You learn that your huzzah can turn to ash in your mouth when you begin peeling off the next sticker, a clear plastic one, and its corner immediately breaks in your hand just millimeters from the edge.
- You learn that it takes approximately four rounds of painstakingly peeling back the edge of the sticker with your thumbnail, getting your hopes up that it won't snap, and then having it snap immediately when you begin to tug -- before you go online to find help.
- You learn that most websites recommend heat as a good way to remove bumper stickers. You learn that your tea kettle is broken and that boiling hot water on the stove in a pot takes a frustratingly long time when one is already hyped up to remove bumper stickers.
- You learn that, much as there is no peaceful time to peel off a sticker from your car in public, there are even fewer peaceful times to pour boiling water from a kitchen pot over your windows in a parking lot. You learn to wait a while longer for the last evening light to really fade properly away.
- You don't learn until you've boiled and tried several pots of water that, helpful as the hot water is for loosening up the sticker, the heat doesn't last long enough. You'll need something more direct.
- You learn that you have an extension cord in the closet behind an old TV, and that there's a power outlet on the bottom floor of your apartment building in the lobby just inside the door. With the extension cord and some careful backing up onto the sidewalk under cover of darkness, you can get just close enough to plug your hair dryer in and bring it out into the night to blow dry your car's bumper.
- You learn that direct, scalding air and radiating heat from the dryer is enough to make you sweat buckets and grin even more stupidly at the occasional passerby, but that, as time wears on, it still isn't enough to loosen up the sticker.
- At long last, you learn that you'll need to resort to the method that you feared would come all along: scraping the sticker off, tiny, flakey dried bit by bit, with a knife.
- You learn that this process is too delicate to undertake at night, and must instead be done in broad daylight, in the middle of the parking lot, so that you can see what you're doing. You learn that the time you think all the neighbors are at work is actually the time that nearly all of them will be coming and going boisterously.
- With practice and patience, you learn, your skill at identifying when you are edging the blade under the sticker and when you are gouging into your paint will improve quite a bit!
You learn the sweet, satisfying feeling of watching the last few scraps of sticker fall to the ground, leaving nothing but a sticky, rectangular patch of scarred, dirty residue on the back of your car.
- You learn never to believe in any cause enough to get a bumper sticker for it again.