By Mary Lowengard
THIS ALL STARTED with a friendly discussion over dinner about left versus right. It had nothing to do with politics. And it quickly overheated.
When I landed in Bucknoll Hills, I couldn’t wait to get my BH stickers. It was, to my mind, the ultimate status symbol. Not to mention necessary for identifying myself as a proud Bucknoll cottage owner. While the community is private, it is not gated. The stickering was my ticket to on-street parking when visiting other cottagers or in the event my driveway, which readily accommodated 10 SUVs (more, if MINI Coopers), were overflowing with house-guest vehicles at some point.
I made inquiries and was directed to the Bucknoll Hills private security force to get stickered.
Under the watchful eye of the Bucknoll officer on duty I carefully peeled the backing off each oval BH decal and placed one on the passenger-side rear bumper and the other on the front bumper on the driver’s side of my BMW 330i.
Little did I realize, this branded me a “righty.”
Soon enough, I was requesting another set of BH stickers, having dumped the BMW for something a bit roomier and snow-friendly. Again, I placed them thusly: right rear, right front from a facing-the-car perspective.
Gene and Dani proudly—and, they maintain, “correctly”—are lefties. This was a source of considerable distress to me. Dani and I are high-school friends from way back. How could we so thoroughly disagree on this issue? It was so obvious I was completely correct.
My consciousness raised, I discovered there seems to be some difference of opinion about what is right and what is left in Bucknoll Hills. Of course, I already knew this from observing cottagers at yoga.
The Great Bucknoll Left-Right Poll
I set out to uncover Truth, Justice and the Bucknoll Way by surveying a random sample of neighbors bellying up to the bar at the Bucknoll Grille one Sunday evening.
I asked them, “Exactly where on your bumpers, stage right or stage left, have you affixed your BH stickers?”
Davis Clooney’s are on the right. “This is no reflection of my politics,” he hastened to add.
Wilma Barbera is a righty too. She recounted the time she took her car for a wash in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The attendant wiping her fender popped his head up and asked, “Are you from Bucknoll Hills?” Turns out, he had previously been employed at the Pocono Valley Car Wash. It’s a small world after all.
Carey Hunt has a similar tale, that of a judo partner he was meeting for the first time in a studio in Simsbury, Connecticut. “Who has the BH sticker?” the guy bellowed across the room upon entering. He turned out to be the brother of a resident. Carey, too, classifies himself a righty.
And Flynn Bruce, a righty and proud of it, tells of being accosted at the tony Sabbatini’s Market in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, by a couple who followed him into the market from the parking lot and demanded to know what the “BH” stood for. They explained they had just returned from visiting friends in Philadelphia and saw the stickers all over the place there.
Are you sensing a pattern here? Or was it that only those likely to prefer the right side are equally likely to cluster at the Grille bar on Sundays? Statisticians call this “sampling bias.”
The New Lefties
A new cottager I hadn’t met previously stickered the “passenger side front, driver’s side back.” Or rather her husband did. “He likes to follow the letter of the law,” she reported.
“Is he a judge?” I asked.
“No, a Capricorn,” she countered. Also, a southpaw.
There are also diplomats among us. They are those stickerers who favor the space smack in the middle of the front license-plate holder. Or the rear bumper. Or both.
And I even found a car owned by someone who split the difference. This rear bumper had BH’s pasted on both the right and the left. I left a note for the owner to contact me, explaining I was halfway into an investigative article on stickering in Bucknoll. No response. Not even a “no comment.”
But I discovered the sad truth, based on my left-right sticker tally, is most Bucknollers don’t stickerize their cars at all.
The Bucknoll Non-Stickers
Here are some excuses—I mean reasons—cottagers told me they eschew the green-and-white ovals. One, who requested total and absolute anonymity, told me it made him a “marked man,” more likely to be overcharged for services in the local community. Apparently, there are “rates” and then there are “Bucknoll rates.”
I myself had direct experience with this phenomenon when I went to Monroe Bank & Trust to rent a safe deposit box. The annual cost, I was told, would be $47. Then, the bank officer excused herself to “get paperwork” and on returning informed me it would be $50. I surmised she discreetly checked out my car bumper and I got the Bucknoll bump.
And then there are the Bucknollers who just don’t like to stick stuff on their “nice” cars. Others feel they’ve been around long enough that they—and their jalopies—should be familiar to security personnel. Which is of course the reason for the stickers in the first place, to help them target The Outsiders.
An Embarrassment of Excuses
Those of German or Scandinavian ancestry might be embarrassed to drive around with a sticker that heralds the vernacular for Büstenhalter. Yeah, you know what that means, don’t you? I am not making this up.
Or perhaps the sticker eschewers fear being mistakenly identified as a native of Belle Harbor, the Beverly Hills of Queens, or Beverly Hills, the Belle Harbor of Los Angeles, or Bay Head, the Beverly Hills of the Jersey Shore. Or, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I put in a request for an interview with the one individual in the community who could settle this left-right question once and for all. (Sorry, not you Buzz, though I considered it.) This was Bucknoll Chief of Security Jack Andrews. In anticipation of this interview, I contemplated filing a FOIA Request for a copy of the Bucknoll Hills Vehicle Registration Form. But first I just asked for it, received it and then pored over it as if it were a cheat sheet for the California Bar Exam.
One decal must be located on the front left bumper (passenger side) and the other on the right rear bumper (driver side).
But, wait—the rear right bumper is on the passenger side, is it not? Right, unless you are the former Duke of Sussex, right? I mean, correct?
The Letter of the Law
Chief Jack sighed when I asked him to clarify. He just didn’t want to bother with such trivia. He had real crimes to chase down in the community. Like routing out flouters of the prohibition against raising livestock on Bucknoll property or hanging laundry in public view or overnight Airbnbers claiming to have taken up residence for the full required month when they were there for just a hot minute of a weekend.
He told me, “It’s gotten to the point I don’t care—right, left or center—I’m just happy if they put it on at all.”
I decided it was time to settle my differences with Gene and Dani. I vowed to stress more about ticks and less about sticker etiquette, taking my cue from Johnny Cash (sort of). Especially since I now realized that what I thought was a status symbol screams that I was a social “arriviste” who didn’t even realize the ultimate status symbol is having a sticker-free vehicle that is waved on by security.
Mary Lowengard really did own a country cottage once upon a time somewhere in Pennsylvania. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. She is grateful to KW, JM, JAR and Woody, who made these stories possible. To start at the beginning, click here. To read them all, click on either tag under the headline.