Over the past few days, I’ve had the opportunity to travel through some rural areas, for both personal and professional reasons. Truth be told, when time allows, I prefer driving through the country vs. city and highway drives. Certainly, hopping on an interstate is quicker and more efficient, but I find rural vistas much more appealing.
When traveling alone through the countryside however, the usual “pass the time” road trip activities are not as effective. Playing the license plate game proves to be quite boring, as I’m either the only one on the road, or could be following the same vehicle for miles. Catching up with people via phone hands-free is also not a great idea, since cell service can be spotty at best. So, I have three other primary ways to keep myself entertained while enroute: boisterously singing with my favorite music du jour (I DID say I was travelling alone), tracking wildlife sightings (the alive kind, road kill doesn’t count), and reading signs. In rural areas, there are no garish billboards every eighth of a mile. Where country signs may lack in quantity, they make up in variety. The majority are either yellow caution signs, or local informational marks. And they often get me thinking about their purpose.
One of my very favorites is the Moose Crossing sign. I’ve only seen a moose in the wild once, when I was a young girl. And I’ve wanted to see more ever since. Whenever I see one of those signs, I start peering into the woods and swamps with excited anticipation that maybe this time I’ll see one of those magnificent yet slightly goofy-looking critters staring back at me. Of course I’d rather not have my next encounter be with one standing in the road as I come around a bend, but rather be able to pull over and watch one wading through a marsh in an ever-so-picturesque way.
I do wonder, though, what qualifications must be met in order for a Moose Crossing sign to be installed? Is it based on number of moose sightings in the past year? If we go by my track record, then that goal number must be pretty low. Oh, look, there’s one! Better get a sign up! Or does it have to do with the number of moose-vehicle collisions? Yikes, I hope not. Or, perhaps, it has more to do with the moose-iness of the surrounding habitat. If that’s the case, what does that checklist look like? Wilderness? Check. Cold Temperatures? Check. Bogs filled with moose-friendly vegetation? Check. I don’t know. All I do know is I’ll keep looking, as if that black silhouette on a bright yellow board is some kind of promise that I’ll see one.
Interestingly today, just a couple of miles beyond a Moose Crossing sign, I saw a yellow caution sign with one word: Children. I thought this a bit curious, as I was definitely not in a “thickly settled” location. No sidewalks, no playgrounds, no schools, very few homes anywhere near the road. Could they have been using the same guidelines as the moose signs? Was there an old woman living in a shoe up in the hills? Or did Hansel and Gretel have a cottage nearby? These are the things I ponder as the miles roll on.
One of my other favorites is the long squiggly line with an arrow at the end, indicating a curvy road ahead. Part of me sees that sign and thinks “wheeeeeee!”
And, perhaps best of all, are the local hand-made signs. One I viewed today was simply one word, spray painted in purple on a piece of wood: Logs. With an arrow pointing down a dirt road. Not firewood, not lumber, not timber. Logs. No price listed, no instructions. Were they offering logs to be made into fences? Were they trying to get rid of large trees recently felled to clear land? Or perhaps was someone wanting logs to be dropped off? Who knows. I would have only found out by taking a detour down that dirt road, and I had not the time nor the need for wood of any kind.
There seems to be a current trend in gift shops for signs with various witty or thought-provoking phrases imprinted on them. I tend to be a sucker for these, and have a few of my own. For example, I have an inspirational list of to-do’s on my home office wall, reminding me to create something every day and to dream big. I have a small plaque hanging in my kitchen which reads “Remember, as far as anyone knows, we are a normal family.” There are many to choose from in gift shops and tourist centers.
Yet after my travels through the countryside, I am thinking that perhaps we are missing an opportunity for caution signs designed for use by Real Women. Think how handy a yellow sign with the letters PMS printed on it could be for the men in our lives. They can not see that we are bloated, head-achey, back-achey and exhausted… so without having to go so far as to have us start sobbing uncontrollably, or verbally snap their heads off, they’d see the caution sign upon entering the house and would know to tread carefully.
Similarly, a yellow sign with “Hotflash” emblazoned on it would immediately answer the question as to why all of the kitchen windows are open on a cold winter day, and those entering the room would know to avoid shutting those windows until all was safe.
Without fail, when I start to sweep, mop, or vacuum the floors in the house, members of my family suddenly appear. My husband will choose that moment to walk in the house from outside, and will say “wooops, bad timing”, or my dog will decide he needs to lay down in the middle of the floor. So a Vaccuum Crossing sign would be ever so convenient.
And how about those rare nights when mom needs a night off from cooking? When we need to deem an evening a “fend for yourself” night, we could simply put up the yellow board with a fork, plate and knife symbol with a large slash across it. This would immediately let inhabitants know that they better get out their cereal bowls or make a sandwich.
We could take a few cues from the rural roads of America, and make good use of simple cautionary insignias and informational signs for our own homes and daily activities. Who knows, maybe we could create some excitement by posting a sign showing the outline of a washing machine and an arrow and hope it spurs some activity.
It could happen – just as soon as I see a moose.