By Paul F. Bradley

The bull shark is known to travel up the Mississippi River, with sightings reported as far north as Illinois, so it's conceivable that one could navigate the Delaware's dangerous maritime traffic and become a fearsome Camden Rivershark. But what exactly is a karate shark?

I ask because I constantly see karate-shark stickers on SUVs and minivans, usually accompanied by other stickers denoting the drivers' favorite vacation spots and their children's greatest achievements.

It's become de rigueur to plaster your car windows and bumpers with this year's destinations: LBI, FLA, OBX, Exit 0, This Car Climbed Mount Washington, Virginia is for Lovers, and other acronyms, activities, and slogans. Other motorists are indubitably curious about where you've been. And neighbors can try to keep up with the Joneses in a decal cold war: I'll see your Disney Vacation Club Member and raise you an HI. For the last word in the debate - and to teach the children proper manners - fill the last bit of bumper space with a "Horn Broken, Look for Finger" sticker.

Why do people feel the need to decorate their automobiles with their life stories, travels, and attitudes? One sees everything from urinating cartoon characters to "No Fear." More often than not, the proliferations of stickers, stuffed animals, and other memorabilia are accompanied by inattentive drivers. Perhaps they're on a cellphone haggling over travel arrangements or early preschool admission.

Take this mini-biography from the rear window of a Chevy Tahoe: Alden is 8, the third tallest in his family of six, a soccer and baseball player, and an honor student. Based on that and his tiger mom's University of Pennsylvania alumna decal, others stuck in traffic know great things are expected of him. I'll worry if I don't see a "My Son is an Eagle Scout" decal by the time young Alden is 13.

Many stickers suggest hypocrisy. It must be a good person driving the Prius adorned with "Save the" stickers for the planet, the whales, and, of course, the "ta-tas." But why did this conservationist throw a sandwich wrapper out the window while blasting such obnoxious music? And crosses and fish, some with feet, attempt to "Coexist" on the same trunk with "Keep Working - Millions on Welfare Are Depending on You." It defies ecumenical explanation.

Car-window memorials puzzle me, too. I saw one elaborate design commemorating a life that ended tragically in an automobile accident; this seemed like an absurd and painful tribute. Why not place a headstone on the roof?

Most peculiar, some dangle metal testicles on their trailer hitches. When you see that sort of automotive artistry, it's best to steer clear: The driver is probably preoccupied with an approaching hernia exam.

If the economy remains in the doldrums, consider saving money by picking up a CMD (Camden) sticker in lieu of OBX. You can check out the Battleship New Jersey, the aquarium, and independent-league baseball right on the banks of the picturesque Delaware River, and the kids can get a "Historic Camden" merit decal. Camden could use the tourism dollars, and you might even catch sight of a river shark.

Paul F. Bradley lives in Bucks County. He can be reached at prehistoricspider@yahoo.com.