While waiting at a stop sign for further instructions, I started thinking about the presumptions made by the boys and girls down at the highway department. When they decide what goes on a highway sign they presume that we—the un-neutered, sign-scoffing public—will grasp the inherent philosophy behind their concern.
Take the stop sign, for example.
The implied message is that we should—we must—stop. That’s why it’s painted red. If it were mocha or plaid we might think they’re kidding. Maybe they’re saying “Look, it would be nice if you stopped here. Lots of traffic. Winnebagos towing smaller Winnebagos, towing pickups, towing boats, towing a squeaking, Wal-Mart empty soul that makes a black hole look like a Holiday Inn. But hey, if you gotta go, you gotta go.”
Most of us stop or sort of stop at stop signs. We look both ways or at least one way (reserving the other way for our cell phones) and then go merrily along. We’re grown-ups. We understand situational philosophy.
However, we don’t stop and then merrily never move again—even though the stop sign drops nary a hint about our life options, post-stop. Nary (i.e., grab a pizza, line a bird cage, break the head off your Putin action figure, etc).
With a traffic light, however, when red turns to green we know it’s time to go, even though it doesn’t say go per se. Again, if the red light was zombie putrescence and the green light was blackened salmon, we might never stop or go and then where would we be?
(FYI: That is the kind of question ancient philosophers thought about all day long while everyone else was out going Rahhhh! with sharpened sticks. Sort of explains why they were paid mostly in pop-it beads and were eager to drink the hemlock out of the 22-ounce glass.)
Fact: there isn’t enough room on any highway sign to convey the kind of information that leads to enlightenment. Not even on those electronic message boards over the highway that warn “If you see something, say something.”*
Well, we were out cruising the interstate down in Flo-Rida recently when I saw an overhead message board that warned “Ride Responsibly.” You’d think they might tell you to drive responsibly, which is my natural born cruising style anyway.
I looked at K-Mac, riding shotgun—with one of the shotguns they hand out free at all the toll booths down in Flo-Rida—and said to her “Hey, they’re talking to you.”
She immediately fired back (um, metaphorically) “Are you talking to me?”
“No,” I said, “I’m talking to Jeb Bush.”
Sarcasm, of course. Jeb wasn’t actually in the car or the state.
We came upon another overhead message. It said “Look Twice for Motorcycles.”
I saw it, but I didn’t know what to say.
“They’re talking to you now,” said K-Mac.
“Um, I think that one is meant for both of us,” I replied. “You look that way and I’ll look this way.”
“No,” she said. “I’ll look this way and you look that way.”
Well, she was holding a Mossberg 835 Ulti-Mag Duck Commander. So I complied.
But I was having a hard time figuring out the philosophy behind that message. If you’re looking twice for a motorcycle, do you do that for the rest of your life? What if you see it on the first look? Do you have to look again? How many times should you then look for, say, a chimpanzee? Five? A hair in your soup? Twenty five? The Spanish Inquisition? Ciento noventa y siete mil?
I must have been thinking out loud, because K-Mac said “Stop!”
So I did.
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013-2015, all rights reserved.
*Courtesy of the Department of Homeland Anxiety