Signing For Dollars
During a drive from Baltimore to Florida in late April, I was assaulted by South of the Border billboards beginning about 175 miles before the camp. After entering South Carolina on 95, I passed the official, government-sponsored Rest Area and while crossing over the short bridge that followed, I thought, “If I just had a can of green paint and silver reflective tape, I could change the D to a P, and cause a few travelers to giggle.” In my mind, a short distance after, a sign would be erected that reads, “Welcome to South Carolina, Tiny.” The females would probably get a better laugh than the males.
The inundation of road signs, billboards and markers along every highway fascinates me. I want to be a Signage Mogul in my next life. There are signs selling food, reminding you to rest, warning to watch for the next sign that warns to watch for the next sign and giving distance in fractions of miles. In one section of Virgina, there are mileage markers every 1/10th of a mile. One tenth! That’s like the distance from my house to my neighbor’s. Or from the parking lot of Walmart to the store. Do they need to remind us every tenth of a mile we have driven 1/10th of a mile? Those who order the signs for whichever governmental office appropriates that sort of thing, must be getting good seats at some sporting event.
Of course, traffic signs are a necessity. Otherwise, how could we locate the nearest fast food establishment and get a full tank of golden liquid for our vehicles, so we can drive to our next quick cuisine joint four hours later? When I’m on a road trip, there better be some indication of the nearest restroom, because I drink a lot of liquids; so “thank you” Sign Procurement Officer. Without you, I wouldn’t know where to stop.
When I was a pre-teen, my parents drove a few times from Maryland to Indiana to see my Grandmother. I loved the trip because it gave me the chance to be on Burma Alert. Some of the best commercial poetry of the time was the series of signs made famous by Burma Shave and I couldn’t wait to read the next group. They were fun because I was a kid who didn’t shave and didn’t pay taxes. Burma Shave wasn’t using my dollars to test my roadway literacy. They were footing the bill.
Even though most traffic signs are necessary, there’s one that pisses me off every time I pass it. Now, I don’t mean to be a whiny, “I’m always over-taxed, government sucks” nuisance. My complaints about wasteful spending are kept to a minimum. Salaries of government workers have to be paid, trash has to be collected, schools need money, streets need mending and the homeless need to eat (unless we can find a use for the cadavers ;-)). I know all that, and acquiesce to the assumed worthiness. Road signage falls within the aura of government responsibility. Then every time I take Exit 16-A off Baltimore’s Beltway on to I-70 toward Frederick, there is this huge Green Monster informing me how far it is from that point to Cove Fort. 2200 miles. Who is driving to Cove Fort from Baltimore? Who’s even thinking of it? Maybe the idea comes to mind after you see the sign, but the message is a waste. I don’t think anyone is really driving that far, and the bus station doesn’t have a long line of people purchasing tickets to Cove Fort. Anyone flying there doesn’t care the distance from I-70 is 2,200 miles. And, where the hell is it, anyway?
Somebody got paid for that sign. I wish it were me.
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