Bumper sticker economy

IN THE EARLY summer of 2003 I put a bumper sticker on the rear window of my Subaru. “Business is great. People are wonderful. Life is terrific.”

A few months earlier, the start of the Iraq War coincided with the start of a three-month plummet in foot traffic and sales at Hannah Banana Books, my shop in the Habersham Village shopping center.

Sales rebounded by mid-June, making the bumper sticker’s business claim true on a day-by-day basis. But after the dismal three prior months, with sales off by 30 to 40 percent from the same period in 2002, the return to busy sales was not enough to keep things going.

The hole was just too deep, and despite a positive attitude and a regularly ringing cash register, as summer of 2003 turned to fall, I finally conceded to the inevitable. This past Tuesday marked the five year anniversary of closing day at Hannah Banana Books.

And yet the bumper sticker lives on, affixed to the upper right corner of my car window. In its five and a half years on my vehicle, this upbeat fortune-cookie summation of the world has continued to accurately reflect the path of my life... Pollyanna though I may be.

Business may not be booming, but it’s definitely great. After decades of toying with the idea of being a writer, I took the plunge in early 2004, realizing a dream I’d had since 10th grade but was too afraid to try. Nearly five years into it, I feel as if I’m still at the beginning, with a lot to learn, which keeps my ego in check and my brain stimulated.

Everywhere, wonderful people abound, and not just those close at hand.Through writing projects and routine meanderings around town I meet interesting people, pieces of the Savannah puzzle as unique and remarkable as our most famous landmarks.

This past Saturday I headed downtown for a late breakfast at Firefly Cafe. After sipping coffee and watching dog walkers and bicyclists, I was reminded that the Declaration of Independence was on display that day at Massie Heritage Interpretation Center.

Walking west on Harris Street past the cathedral, I turned south into Lafayette Square and skirted the edge of a wedding — the second outdoor nuptials I’d seen that afternoon. As I passed, the groom was signaling to the two police officers on duty, asking them to step into the family grouping and be photographed as part of the big day.

At Massie, a steady stream of families passed through the maze of rooms, stopping first for a minute-long gaze at one of the last remaining of 200 “rough drafts” of the Declaration of Independence that circulated around the colonies in the summer of 1776.

On the day after the first presidential debate, while politicians met frantically in Washington to cobble together a fix to the economic situation, four senior members of Beach High School’s JROTC Color Guard took a pizza break in the shade of Massie’s yard. Under the supervision of Sgt. James Shaw, the students had prepared for a week to read the Declaration as part of a ceremony that included their presentation of the colors — “what we do best,” according to one of the color guard members.

Upstairs in the reconstructed early 20th century classroom, children and adults used feather quill pens to sign take-home photocopies of the Declaration, while a film presented a reading of the document by eleven Hollywood actors — with perhaps the greatest testament to the universality of the document’s message being the presence of both Mel Gibson and Whoopi Goldberg as readers in the film.

From Saturday’s indications, life is terrific — full trolleys rode past, loungers in the squares enjoyed the mild fall air, the hope that resonated through the colonies in 1776 seemed present everywhere, seemingly untouched by the economy’s wobbling.

After five years, that bumper sticker on my back window is peeling around the edges, to the point where the L in “Life” has disappeared. Last week I tried to remove it — it’s getting unsightly and, given the state of our country, might come across as naive or insensitive. But the darned thing has melded into the glass like Superglue.

I gave up temporarily. Friday night, a couple I’d just met spied it on my car. “I like your bumper sticker. It’s so hopeful,” the husband said, with no irony.

We’re having a tough week, a tough month and year, but for now, that ragged sticker is staying where it’s been for half a decade. cs

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