This was Goettlich’s AHA! moment. As you may guessed, the bumper sticker was a reference to the movie Back to the Future. It’s moments like this, on the highway, driving at speed, that can seem so solitary, but in fact there are opportunities to connect—and with perfect strangers.
To sample the kinds of messages being sent on our roads, Goettlich drove more than 10,000 miles on interstate highways throughout the eastern United States. He says one major variety of bumper sticker refers to things nearly everyone knows about—an election, a church, a social issue. But other bumper stickers may require an observer to access what Goettlich calls “outside resources.” For example, the bumper sticker that says, “The Dude Abides” might drive some people to do a quick Google search. But a few viewers may feel an instant bond, being fans of the movie The Big Lebowski.