While traveling America’s highways recently, I’ve noticed a distinct increase in the number of “instructional” and “informative” signs hanging on overpasses and adorning roadsides. These electronic reminders, in place thanks to a generous, benevolent, and caring government, helpfully remind us to obey the law. Among other things.
On a recent trip from my home in "the cities" to our family’s summer cottage, only a few miles into the journey a sign informed drivers: “Buckle up…it’s the law.” A bit further on another informed us: “Extra DWI enforcement this weekend. Plan to drive sober.” Whew! Damn good thing I saw that one. I was going to stop and get hammered before attempting to continue on my trek. Not five miles down the road from there, a brightly lit sign proclaimed to drivers stuck in stop and go congestion: “Air quality alert, no idling.” Really? Has anyone who ever got into their car to go somewhere had an overweening desire to stop dead for no reason in the middle of a three-lane freeway? Twenty miles down the highway this message appeared: “Road closed at County 25, take alternate route.” It did not, however, state what alternate route to take.
It dawned on me that perhaps it may be the road construction and extra police cars on the highway that are causing the traffic jam and forcing drivers to sit idle in the congestion.
It wasn’t long before this gem came into view: “Air quality alert, take fewer trips.” Well, if I wasn’t already on this trip, I wouldn’t have seen this plea not to go on any more of them, Sherlock.
Roughly 20 minutes later, another sign appeared, this one asking drivers to “Look both ways before crossing the street.” Half-way to my destination, a new message came into view: “Eat your vegetables.” This, I thought, was a little excessive. Approximately 15 miles further on, the nighttime roadside was emblazoned with the mantra, “Don’t play with matches.” Five minutes later motorists were admonished that “April 18th is the last day to pay your taxes without penalty.”
Then, passing through the last town before the turn-off to our cottage, travelers were electronically interrogated with these words: “Have you called your mother lately?”
Thanks, MNDOT. Thanks, Big Brother. Thanks, Uncle Sam. I couldn’t have made the trip without you.