The Power of a Bumper Sticker
It was exactly three days before I was to pack up my car and take the six-hour drive from northern Connecticut to Canton, New York to begin my first year at St. Lawrence. I was at the local pharmacy, picking up some last-minute toiletries and other items on my packing list. Shampoo, check. Toothpaste, check. Coffee and ramen noodles, check and check.
As I was trudging through the parking lot towards my car, I heard a voice call out behind me: “St. Lawrence?!”
I looked around until I noticed a small old woman walking towards me with a big grin on her face. As nice as she looked, I was a little spooked. How did she know where I was about to start school? She must have seen the bewildered look on my face.
“Oh!” she laughed and pointed to my car parked behind me, “I just noticed your sticker! I went to St. Lawrence!”
Still confused, I looked back at my car and noticed the big St. Lawrence bumper sticker my mom had put on the back window just days earlier. I smiled back and told her I was an incoming fist-year, and she began smiling even bigger. She told me all about her time at SLU, and wished me good luck on my upcoming year.
To be honest, at that point I was scared to begin my college career. I had only visited campus once, and was overwhelmed with what-ifs. What if campus isn’t how I remembered it? What if I don’t like the food? What if I get homesick? What if the student body is different than I expected? Despite all that, my pre-orientation brain was put just a little more at ease as I was driving home that day, thanks to the warm wishes of that kind alum in the parking lot.
About four months later, I was driving home with some classmates for winter break after completing my first semester at SLU. It was cold and snowing, and the roads through the Adirondacks were getting icy. After hitting some black ice and crashing lightly into the guard rail, we were stuck waiting for a tow truck on the dark, cold, deserted road. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t shaken.
After about 45 minutes of waiting, our tow truck came puttering up the road, with none other than a St. Lawrence bumper sticker stuck proudly on the back. After a long and scary evening, my peers and I were delighted to see that sticker and learn that the driver’s daughter was an alumna. In the dark of the truck, snow coming down hard as we drove towards the nearest auto shop, we knew we were okay.
Finally, during my sophomore year, my friend and I were driving back up to campus after our mid-semester break. We took a wrong exit somewhere deep in Pennsylvania and subsequently got stuck in a monumental rainstorm. This wasn’t any old rain shower: this was a torrential, flash-flooding, can’t-see-ten-feet-ahead type of downpour. After a couple minutes of white-knuckle driving, we decided it was best to pull over on the side of the highway to wait out the storm a bit. My friend was a little startled from the weather and stressful traffic, but when we pulled over with the other cars on the shoulder of the highway, we both breathed a sigh of relief when we saw that the car in front of us had- yep, you guessed it- a SLU sticker on the bumper.
"They’re a Saint! They’re a Saint!” we both exclaimed when we saw the sticker. Needless to say, we made it safely back to campus after following that sticker all the way home.
While it sounds a little silly, I believe there’s power in a bumper sticker. There’s a lot of talk about the strong alumni network here at St. Lawrence, especially in a professional context. However, I believe that alumni network goes far beyond career development. It extends to random parking-lot encounters, kind tow-truck drivers, and signs of safety on the side of the highway, and to me, that’s what’s special about St. Lawrence alumni. So, future and past Laurentians, wear your sticker and wear it proud- you never know who will need to see it.