Put a Sticker on it

The perfect location is inside the door, right below the sliding lock. This spot ensures the most visibility as it’s just above eye level. Everyone who comes inside will be forced to look at it. A captive audience. I peel the backing off and carefully place a sticker atop dozens of others, hiding the competition. Satisfied with my handiwork, I then sit on the toilet.

Before me is a patchwork, no, a mosaic of outdoor-branded stickers. This bathroom stall door in a mountain town pizza-joint is more colorfully vandalized than a freight car parked in an urban rail yard. There are logos of gear companies, breweries, ski resorts, even outdoor blogs.

I gaze at the sticker I just placed. It advertises my own shamefully mundane blog. Seeing it there, I feel a bit dirty and hollow, as if I’m one of those creeps who scratches cartoon genitalia onto the paint and then leaves a phone number.

I wonder what compelled me to add to this jumbled mess of messages. Is it for publicity? To catch the eye of a random dude sitting on the men’s-room toilet? I’m fooling myself to think this fantasy person will see my logo, then immediately whip out a phone in the middle of his business to read about my not-so-epic trip in one hand, while wiping with the other.

And yet, while I feel conflicted about defacing private property with my sticker, I’m reassured as I stare at the hundreds more on the door. Clearly I’m not the only attention seeker doing it. In fact, I’m willing to bet nearly every “outdoorsy” person in the country has adhered a sticker on something, be it a car bumper or beer fridge. Hell, the “Welcome to Utah” sign at the Colorado border on I-70 is completely covered in them, at least every surface within arm’s reach.

Stickers identify us to others like signposts of our lives. The act of sticking is endemic to our mountain culture. I can’t think of another industry whose followers are so smitten with wallpapering every surface with stickers quite like us, and I’m guiltier than most.

You might say I have a sticker fetish. It goes back to grade-school when I would get a sticker from the teacher for a job well done. They were usually scratch-and-sniff and I would adhere them to my hand. The skunk-flavored sticker was my favorite. I would wear it all day and scratch it on the school bus, forcing my putrid hand into the faces of pretty girls. Once at home, the sticker went on the wall above my pillow until my bedroom looked like the inside of a public bathroom stall, minus the phone numbers.

I’m still putting stickers on things, even in middle age. Along with the above-mentioned bathroom stall, I’ve put stickers on my truck, coolers, forest service signs, curbside trash cans, gear boxes, skis, laptop computers, lift-towers, sliding-glass doors, and, yes, the beer fridge in my garage.

Random stickers go in random places, but the ones that really identify me go on the truck. The same is probably true for most everyone. I once parked at a trailhead next to a station wagon, and could decode a lot about the person who drove it. The Utah Avalanche Center and Wasatch Backcountry Alliance stickers indicated a backcountry skier. A Westminster College logo gave away the alma mater. Black Diamond and Voile stickers, a preference in ski gear. Most interesting was the Ducks Unlimited sticker on the bumper. Here we had both a backcountry skier and avid waterfowler. I learned a lot about this human, just from logos on a car.

Still, I question why we have this penchant for stickers. I point my finger at gear companies. It seems every purchase includes a sticker in the box, or hanging from apparel tags. This giveaway is smart marketing, especially if the sticker is rad. Give away a snazzy sticker, and you may see your outdoor logo pretty much everywhere – the ultimate in free advertising. Look no further than Backcountry.com. These days, you’re not a mountain denizen unless you sport a Backcountry goat on your transport’s rear window. Bonus points if you put said goat on a Subaru.

Nowadays if I order a product, I expect to get a sticker. If I don’t, I’m as disappointed as a Utah skier during the 2017/18 season. The sticker is validation for me. It’s like getting a corporate high-five for buying their product. No sticker = no fuzzy feeling.

Maybe my predilection for outdoor branded stickers is immature, but aren’t most outdoorsy people in general? I think you have to possess a streak of youth to keep skiing, mountain biking or rock climbing into old age. Perhaps a good dose of rebelliousness is required as well. And what can be more rebellious than vandalizing someone’s property with countless stickers, even if that property is my own?

So I say to all outdoor brands, keep those stickers coming. And I’ll keep sticking your logos onto every clean and smooth surface I can find. I only ask that you don’t send out scratch-and-sniff stickers. Because I don’t want to know what the Backcountry.com goat smells like.

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