On December 6, 2015 during the Woodstock Holiday Open House celebration I handed out a bumper sticker that read, “I could be wrong” to people on the streets, in the stores, and the galleries. As I went about, I took notes on some of what people said.
“I could be wrong and so could you,” one person suggested.
A man said, “I would not put that on my car because then my wife would say, O.K., you’ve finally admitted it.”
Another said, “If everyone thought this way, the world would be a better place.”
A woman said, “I’m going to put this on my husband’s forehead.”
I chatted with two friends. One said, “No thanks, I don’t do bumper stickers. And no: I don’t want to be wrong.” The friend said, “I’m usually wrong.” Everyone laughed.
One woman said, “I’ll put the bumper sticker in my back window. Most bumper stickers seem like the person is showing off (she made a gesture of a pompous person) but this I could put in my back window.”
A lot of people asked why I was doing this and I said I thought it would be good for the upcoming political season and that I liked a bumper sticker that spoke to the other bumper stickers. I explained that I’d observed that people with bumper stickers often have more than one and the “could be wrong” sticker would be commentary on the others. I asked people to agree to display the sticker if they accepted one. It did not have to be on their bumper but they had to display it so many people would see it.
A man said that he already had a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker on his car so he figured he should put my “could be wrong one” on one side and one that said, “I could be right” on the other.
One couple who burst out laughing together said they would use it. They suggested a sticker that would say, “Honk if I’m wrong,” and figured that would create a lot of noise.
The sticker generated some political talk on elections and on the gun issues that had been in the news that day. Several people suggested sending to some government officials. People said that the politicians “are usually wrong.”
One fellow said, “I can’t be wrong.” And after a pause said, “I’ve never been overturned.”
Another woman said someone she knew had the bumper sticker and for the first time, recently admitted they were wrong. She wondered if it might help people do that more readily.
Of course, people joked about it in every way. “Oh, not that one, I’m never wrong…just kidding.” “I think it’s the best bumper sticker I’ve ever seen but I could be wrong about that.” One time I asked, “Will you display it?” and the answer was, “Yes, but I could be wrong.”
While standing with a group of four in a gallery, another person joined and asked what we were talking about. A woman took her sticker out and held it up for the newcomer to see. She held it up upside down. We all laughed and decided that would be the way to put it on a car.
There was occasional commentary on other quotes on the issue. One person said, “I read a quote today that said I’m not always right but I’m never wrong.”
With one fellow we got to talking about the Buddhist aspects of the sticker — that we could be wrong about everything. We agreed the bumper sticker was a good summary of a desired mentality.
I usually asked people first if they liked bumper stickers. Many people would never put them on their car and I heard all kinds of reasons why, such as the fact that their car was leased, to the fear that any opinions might anger some who would take it out on their car, to the feeling that it was a silly way to express oneself. One woman said, “I do put bumper stickers on my car but it has to be something that is very meaningful to me and this isn’t.”
Towards the end of the evening I ran into a friend who I’d seen in the beginning. She asked how it went. I said the most common reaction was it would be great for my husband/wife. She said, “I thought it would have been like me; I’m not wrong,” and she laughed.
One woman stood out as sincerely moved by the gift. She was with her daughter aged about ten and just said, “Thank you very much,” very earnestly while her daughter laughed. I walked away thinking that they really needed that.
The next evening I was at a different community event and several people said their friends had asked, “Where can I get that sticker?” It might become a movement.
I got home to this e-mail.
Thank you for the bumper sticker
I was wrong
You are right
I will put it on my car.