Wednesday, September 06, 2006


By Matthew Sanborn Smith

A stop sign on a lonely country road set Jeff off. It was red and it was "STOP." It was negative in every way it could be and there were, what, millions(?) all over the country just like it.

"This is what's wrong with the country!" he screamed out of the window of his Nissan. A flock of birds scattered into the sky.

Back home, Jeff blew the dust off the sheet metal machines at his father's old factory and got to work on the scraps that littered the place. Fourteen hours later he curled up on a floor dusted with insect droppings and exoskeletons and slept hard with his arms wrapped around a bright green, round "GO" sign.

Stop signs saved lives, Jeff knew that. He certainly wasn't gong to remove them. But wherever there wasn't a stop sign, why not post a go sign? He hired a couple of guys and they'd make signs during the day and plant them around town at four in the morning, when the local cops changed shifts and were less likely to drive by. People liked the signs and they caught on. Jeff had plans far beyond "GO."

His vision of positive reinforcement next took on the venerable "YIELD" sign. Powder blue "PUSH ON!" signs sprung up everywhere. But why stop with street signs? They planted "PLEASE PLAY WITH DOG" signs wherever there weren't "BEWARE OF DOG" signs. "SLOW CHILDREN" signs were replaced with "CHILDREN WHO ARE REALLY TRYING HARD" signs (there was some misunderstanding there).

Copycat sign makers tried their own hands at the game. Some started slowly, merely buying other people's signs and cutting off the "NO" in them. "PARKING" signs were rampant and people actually paid money for the "SMOKING" signs. "LOITERING" signs were popular with young people. Lonely shut-ins ordered "SOLICITING" signs by mail, phone, and internet. Kids wrought delightful havoc with their misplaced "SPITTING" and "FOUL LANGUAGE" signs. Popular "PANTS, SHOES, SERVICE" signs quickly overtook their negative cousins.

Amid the chaos, a change came over the people as they discovered freedoms that were always available but about which no one ever thought. Millions reveled in all the places they could go as unauthorized personnel. They proceeded without caution down their two way streets, through live ends as quickly as the speed allowance signs directed. They dumped and trespassed and thru traffic beeped its horns with glee as it raced past the new "FAST" signs that were not near construction sites. There were so many outlets! And so much fishing!

Jeff was made the Secretary of Transportation. The whole country just lightened up and felt better about itself. It didn't go unnoticed either. Other countries started asking us out and inviting us to parties and soon we were popular again.

But we wouldn't put out.

We weren't a floozy.

No comments: