Thursday, June 28, 2012


I am way into words. Road signs. Billboards. Marquees.  Any combination of letters displayed unabashedly in public, right out in front of God and everybody, these are the things I am obsessed with.  I read them, look for spelling errors, grammatical guffaws. I point and laugh.  I even copy them down for public ridicule.  I know—it’s a cruel addiction. 

Sometimes I can’t get over the crazy ways people use words to attract attention and confused customers.  And then I wind up asking myself, “Don’t they know anyone with the spiritual gift of editing?”
For example.  I know small towns have limited budgets.  So maybe it’s a good idea to consolidate business opportunities on one giant sign. But even my husband wouldn't make a stop at a store in Snowflake, Arizona, last summer, where the marquee advertised, “Dog Bathing/Alfalfa/Homemade Fudge.” I’m a chocoholic, but we drove right past that one.
Then there are the homemade signs set up beside mobile vendors.  And by that, I mean cars.  I live in the desert.  Which by definition is a dusty place with no water.  So who, in their right mind, pulls up next to a 1967 Volkswagen parked on the side of the road in Phoenix to purchase fresh shrimp in the middle of July?  Hmmmmm??  Gluttons for punishment, that’s who.
There’s a car I see almost every day when I leave my neighborhood out here in the middle of, well, pretty much nowhere.  There are American flags flying from the rolled up windows and a giant plywood sign propped up against it, emblazoned with the hand painted message, “Good Tamales, Ten Bucks.”  Which, to me, just begs the question:  if the ‘good’ tamales are ten bucks, how much are the bad ones?  Not that I want a bad tamale, but they’d probably go well with summer shrimp.
I’d like to know why the section of Interstate 10 at the Arizona/New Mexico border was renamed The Pearl Harbor Memorial Highway.  Is that the only road in Arizona that reminds people of Pearl Harbor? It just doesn’t make me think of Hawaii when I look at miles and miles of cactus and dirt and scrub brush. Of course, I’ve never been to Hawaii, so maybe I’m wrong.
And have you ever noticed when you’re at the drive up window at the bank that the sign there is also written in Braille?  Doesn’t that scare you a little?  One of my best friends is legally blind, and even she thinks it’s a bad idea for visually impaired people to drive.  I think she’s just cynical, though.  Ever since I walked her into the men’s room that third time, she doesn’t believe anyone is truly sighted.
Some signs are so simple they’re pure genius.  Like the pair of exit signs I saw last Christmas in a convenience store in Lordsburg, New Mexico.  The one on the left double door read, “Use That Door To Exit”.  The sign on the right double door said, “This Is That Door.”
Signs.  I just love ‘em.  My in-laws lined their kids up in front of one on their street once, thinking it was a great photo op since the sign above their grinning heads read, “Slow Children”.
But one of the best signs I ever heard about was a warning placed at the private drive of a psychiatric hospital in Phoenix in the late 1950's.  It read, “Entrance.  Do Not Enter.” 
Word to the wise.


  1. I'm a sign freak. I don't know what I find more amusing, the words or the drawings used to illustrate them.
    Also, ya had me giggling quite a bit with this one. :-)

    1. Those each cracked me up when we ran across them. We should collaberate on a book about 'em, Mendy! Glad I got you giggling. :)

  2. Awesome! Signs are funny. I love the one with the gratuitous apostrophes. Why do people do that?