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"Where are people buying these decals?" After ten dead-end calls, Patrick slumped over the telephone, exhausted by his futile hunt. He was trying to buy stick-figure family decals for his sister's car. She has 13 children. "That would be a great gag gift for her," he said, "a string of little girls and boys across the back windshield." The problem was finding them. He tried stationery shops, car dealers, and label companies. Nothing. To lessen the load, I took up the hunt, and was directed to Nancy at Fiber-World in National City. She makes the decals. "We have some decals already made up or customers can bring in their own drawing to have made into a decal," Nancy explained over the phone. "We have a decal machine, so we can scan a drawing that they have made."

Nancy explained the drawings. "I prefer that the drawings be done with a ball-point pen or a very fine black marker. The machine is exaggeratedly sensitive, so it is going to pick up any extra little dot, squiggly line, or extra lines. The drawing has to be an extremely clean copy with clean lines."

The ready-made decals she describes as "the average stick family, and the boy bouncing a soccer ball. If the customer wants freckles on the child, or some other particular item on it, that has to be custom made."

What are some of the best sellers?

"Calvin peeing on everybody is a best seller. People want Calvin peeing on their mother-in-law. There are things that I will not do, though. Some customers come with very vulgar stuff. I just sell them the Calvin by himself and tell them to put whatever they want on the side. Some people ask for some strange things."

Another bestseller right now are "car clubs," she explained. "Customers are asking for the car clubs, the name of the car for the front of the windshield, or they want a particular girl or guy's name for their cars."

The intricacy of the design can be a problem. "Today I had a guy ask me if I could do the Virgin Mary on there," she said. "There's no way I could copy that color picture. It needs to be pencil or pen drawing and look like a coloring book drawing. Some customers want the whole Jesus with the Sacred Heart and there is no way I can do that. It is way too detailed."

What about the quality of the sticker? Is it going to peel?

"The sticker is a heavy vinyl," Nancy explained. "You put it on the window of the car, and when you remove it, you will be left with the stick people, not the background."

The decals come in an assortment of colors. "We have silver, gold, pink, blue, green, but people tend to stick with white or red. We charge per the size," she offered, "so for a decal about 12 inches long by eight or 10 inches high, it would run around $25 . For the stick family, you can make the people smaller to fit more people on there. If the drawing is not very complicated, it takes me between 15 and 30 minutes to make it."

She added, "It will last for a long time."

Nancy told me she had seen a kiosk at Parkway Plaza selling decals, so I raced down there. The Sticker Shop, located by the movie theaters in the center of the mall, sells a variety of images:

firefighter, butterfly, jester, wolf, Calvin praying in front of a cross, and a stick figure family to name just a few. The salesman said a six-inch decal runs $19.95 , and a dollar more for each extra inch. "If you have a catchy design, bring it in, and we can make it up," he said. As for a family of 13 kids, he suggested buying the stick figure family of four then adding the extra kids. "For add-ons it costs $3.95 and up."

The Sticker Shop salesman suggested cleaning the car glass before placing the decals on the car, "clean the window real well before placing them on it," he recommended, "and if you need to remove it for some reason, use a razor blade, a heat gun, or a hair dryer."

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