Problematic drive-thru stickers

Jun 1, 2016 by

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With me in the van last August when I pulled into the drive-thru lane at our credit union were three grandchildren.

“Ask for pretty stickers,” demanded the oldest, age 7, in back with her 4-year-old sister.

I launched my cash request up the chute and yoo-hooed at the speaker box, “We’d like pretty stickers, please.”

“Who do we have out there?” called the distant, kindly cashier behind the bulletproof glass. “How many girls and how many boys?”

“Two girls and a boy,” I said.

Back in West Virginia, my husband and I hadn’t had a Mennonite bank. We’d not had much of anything Mennonite. We’d felt pretty lonely. Now we belonged to a credit union with sturdy, familiar last names on its employee roster. Inhabiting Mennonite country, what a lark. Of course, I had my expectations.

We waited. My backseat driver, ever upright-minded, chided me for not switching off the motor. Finally, whoosh, down the tube came my $300 cash plus the stickers.

“Two princesses,” I announced to the van, “and an airplane.” I took a second look. “Ooooh, that might be an army plane. I’m not sure.”

“It doesn’t matter,” said the oldest. Her brother, only a year old, belted into his baby seat behind me, said nothing. “He won’t notice,” she added. “He’s too little.”

“Maybe not,” I said, passing back the stickers. “But I don’t know. He might get the idea that planes like that are really exciting.”

I lit into a speech about the girls’ daddy when he was a child. He is a fervid pacifist, but as a youngster he was enthralled by weaponry. He loved, just loved, looking at photos of military gear. And he and his brother were forever making guns. They’d go around the house on hunts. I had to keep warning, “No people! Just animals!” and I urged them to aim into corners. It seemed time, again, to let my loathing spill.

“War is awful,” I said to the girls. “It’s horrible.”

When we reached home, little brother was asleep. I found his sticker with him in his seat. “Throw it away,” declared the oldest.

I didn’t, though. When I showed it to my husband, he agreed that the plane had a military look. One wing held an insignia akin to the type war generals wear, sewn above their breast pockets. The plane was a stern, steely gray. Purple and blue flames shot out from its underbelly. A dagger-like shaft protruded from the plane’s nose.

But the letter I wrote to our credit union, with the sticker Scotch-taped fast, reaped me a thoughtful email in return. It was warm, friendly, apologetic: the employee in charge of purchasing the credit union’s stash of stickers would pay closer attention. And an envelope full of freebies came in the mail, the innocuous kind of stickers, properly mollifying.

The thing is, in April, just a few weeks ago, my husband and I stopped by our credit union with a different batch of grandchildren in tow, the youngest a 10-year-old. Stickers again landed in our car and when I peered at them, whew. The airplane one was way different — cutesy, funny, a cartoon.

Nobody much wanted it, though, and now that I’m taking the time to stare more shrewishly, it appears that the red-cheeked, bug-eyed plane in the foreground is being chased by the other two. Judging by the apparatus suspended from the wings, the pursuing planes are more powerful. Their eyes are slitted, crossed, angry. And down in the corner of the picture — a person has to squint — is the tiniest little skull and crossbones. Now what? Do I have to write another letter? Or am I just being picky?

Shirley Kurtz attends Iglesia Enciende una Luz (Shine a Light Church), a Virginia Mennonite Conference congregation in Harrisonburg, Va.

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