Live The Dream

By David

I’m not a big fan of car bumper stickers. Many are little more than crass personal advertising. “My son is a St.Vincent Elementary School honor student” – to which I’ve seen the perfect response “My dog’s smarter than your honor student”. Thank God the parents of really bright or talented children don’t feel the need to advertise the fact on their cars. Imagine the lists – My daughter’s a National Swimming Champion, My Son Has a full Ride to USC, My Son won a State High School Final, My Daughter Swam in The Pan Pacific Games. Ponder for a moment what Michael Phelps mother’s car would look like. She’d never see out the window to drive. And what would Paris Hilton and Britney Spears’ mothers have thought appropriate to have on their SUVs? I know – “My kid has A.D.D. and a couple of Fs.” No, I’m sure family triumphs are best enjoyed at home; not on the side of a motor car.

I have a bit of a soft spot for the sad irony behind “No one died when Clinton lied.” On my way home tonight I saw a little Chevy with an “I love New Orleans” bumper sticker. Not very original I hear you say. I thought so too until I read the small sticker beside it. It said “Drove my Chevy to the levee and the levee wasn’t there.”

The scary ones are the “Swim Mom” and “Swim Dad” stickers. I have no doubt that the guy who invented them did so with the best of intentions. Today US Swimming wants to find out why so many teenagers drop out of the sport. They could do worse than begin by interviewing the owners of those stickers. Have you ever noticed how many more “swim moms” there are out there than “swim dads”? Why is that do you think? Perhaps more moms derive status from their children’s activities than dads? Now possibly that is the place US Swimming should start.

The “Swim Taxi” bumper sticker is a paradox. It may imply that the owner is a touch negative about spending so much time carting children to a swimming pool. That seems strange. What else would they prefer to be doing and what on earth did they imagine having children would involve? Some of the best “quality time” of my life was spent driving my daughter to and from swimming pools. Her tales of a day at Hastings Girls High School were endless and entertaining. Like the day she got into the car with a report from the physical education teacher that said, “Jane lacks aerobic fitness”. At the time Jane was the open women’s national 200 meters breaststroke champion and had just set a national open record of 2.30.67 for the event. Strange breed those PE teachers.

My car has two bumper stickers. One advertises my membership of the American Automobile Association and the other my membership of US Swimming; I’m sure you will agree, a modest enough display. My number plate is a bit ostentatious though. Some might even say it is no different from the “honor student” exhibitions. There is a picture of Martin Luther King on the plate and the words “Live the dream.” I’ve had one or two white Americans tell me they have never seen that plate on a white person’s car. I chose it because King was a huge world personality. Although the dream in his case conveyed an important racial message, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me using his thought to communicate the enjoyment I derive from coaching swimming in the United States. Jack Nicklaus conveyed much the same idea when he was reported as saying how privileged he felt being able to work and earn a living playing golf; to be paid to do something he couldn’t wait to get to each day was something very special. I agree with him. As the number plate says, for me, just now, coaching swimming in the United States is living the dream. However all of that probably does not excuse having it displayed on the back of my car.