Sunday, 26 April 2009

Sign of the times

As I travel around the road networks of this sceptered isle, I occasionally raise my sight from the ten feet of tarmac in front of me and have a bit of a look around. And over the last few years I've been increasingly aware that people are trying to communicate with me.

Really, really badly.

It's these matrix signs they have at the side of the road. Ones like this:

I have a bit of a problem with them.

It's not that they're not potentially useful. I mean, I can see the practical applications. Telling me about accidents up ahead, for instance, so I can take an alternative route. That's clearly a good thing. But most matrix signs suffer from We've Spent a Bloody Fortune On These So We'd Better Use Them-itis.

Over winter, I was driving along and visibility was bad. The elements were doing their best and I was navigating using the Force. Out of the murkiness a matrix sign loomed. I squinted as I tried to read its vital message through the mist. What did it have to tell me? It said:
Caution - Fog
Well, thanks for that. I'm a little underwhelmed. If you're going to state the bleeding obvious, how about "Gravity operating in this area" while you're about it?

In recent weeks they've been trying a different tack, with messages like "Don't drive tired." Let's not bother with any form of sentence structure, I'll complain to myself. And then when I've stopped being a grammar Nazi I'll wonder about the meaning. I'm a little tired right now. Should I simply pull over into the hard shoulder? If I'm on the way into work do I call my boss? "Sorry, Richard, I can't come in. The signs told me."

Last weekend the signs around Southampton were all saying "Think Bike". Katie was disappointed as she'd actually got monorails on her mind at the time.

And the best, the very best, was one we saw on the M4 going past Cardiff time last year. A newly installed sign, glistening in the Welsh sunlight, had the following message, clearly evidence of a latter-day Dylan Thomas:
This sign not in use.


LegalMist said...

Right you are! These signs are the height of bureaucratic absurdity!

Word Verification: Notess

oddly apropo

(Found you through the Black Boxes. Cool blog!)

fatboyfat said...

Thank you and welcome. I'd quite forgotten about the Black Boxes thing!

Country Girl said...

Now see, I listen when Elvis talks to me and he's MUCH more accurate than the signs.


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