One of my kids just got his learner’s permit, so I must set a good example for him whenever I’m driving. Hands ten and two, only kind words for the clown drafting behind me like it’s Daytona, proper signaling and, of course, no texting. But that doesn’t mean I stop processing all incoming data.
Like Tom Brady under center stealing one last look at the defense, I take in whatever they’re giving me. Pickup truck one lane over, loaded down like Lamont’s in the opening credits of Sanford and Son … COEXIST bumper sticker on an F-150, WTF? Ah, I see, equine veterinarian … Penelope’s Little Secret – consignment store, or something salacious? … McRib is back, but for how long? … Yoga pants at three o’clock.
Recently a detour routed me through a new neighborhood, where I saw the usual suburban signage. No Solicitation, engraved in country club font, a two-for-one warning that wards off both door-to-door salespeople and prostitutes. Vote Yes on Proposition 48, which I recall had something to do with Euclidian Geometry. Well Water Used signs — I get it, DiCaprio, you’re a good eco-steward, not wasting city water. Still, shouldn’t your yard look less like the Joad family farm in The Grapes Of Wrath? Trust me, nobody’s accusing you of excessive watering. Your lawn looks like where old Chia Pets go to die.
Then I saw a sign that I’d never seen before: Drive Like Your Kids Live Here. Seems to me there’s an awful lot being assumed in that admonition. Sure, some drivers will be like “goodness, thanks for the reminder.” Perhaps most will react this way. But not everyone drives with the emotional intelligence of Ned Flanders, and it only takes one bad apple to show that the law of unintended consequences can be brutal. Drivers such as:
Tiger Moms. If they see this sign, they might well accelerate to ramming speed. After all, if their kids lived there, they’d surely be indoors practicing the French Horn or, if outdoors, desalinating water from a nearby marsh. You know, some activity designed to lock in Northwestern as a safety school. But playing outdoors in the streets? I wouldn’t bet their chess master certificates on it. Remember, these indoor kids react to sunlight about how the Sleestaks did in Land of the Lost. Your sign ain’t slowing down any tiger moms.
Parents Who Don’t Love Their Kids. Res ipsa loquitur.
Parents Whose Kids, Though Loved, Are Themselves Adults. Here’s the kicker: the older their adult children, the older the driver, and the older the driver, the greater the danger. He sees the sign from under his fishing hat and starts thinking What in Sam Hill? Chet lives in Cedar Rapids with his loudmouth kids and harpy of a wife. If he lived here he wouldn’t be playing in the street. He’d be shaking me down to invest in his latest get rich quick scheme. Like the last one, what was it, Heavy Petting Zoo? He’s my son and I love him, but good heavens, Chet couldn’t pour beer out of a boot if there were directions on the heel. No, we don’t want On Golden Pond there driving with unpleasant thoughts about his no-account, middle-aged son. We want him off the road and back home where he belongs, watching Matlock.
Libertarians. These fellas get chippy over legitimate exercises of state authority. Seat-belts? No sir, not in my Dodge Stratus. Speed Limit? Show me where it is in the Constitution, Officer. Until then, I’ll be frying up chimichangas on my dashboard skillet, flicking unfiltered Camels out the window and driving as fast as I damn please. Market forces, not men, curb my behavior, so yeah, this is my Invisible Hand giving you the middle finger. These Live Free or Die types aren’t going to make way for ducklings, or anybody else. Trust me.
The Irish. We just don’t like being told what to do.
Love Me, Love My Dog People. They have no beef with watching out for your kids, but they’d prefer that your sign included dogs. Truth? If you strapped them up to a polygraph you’d find that they’re actually kind of ticked off. This doesn’t make them a threat per se. But the only street hockey time that’s 100 percent safe from this cohort is during the Westminster Dog Show.
NBA Journeyman Felton Spencer. He didn’t get where he did professionally by listening to unsolicited opinions like kick the rock out on the wings more.
I have kids and I get the need to drive safely, in your neighborhood and everywhere else. But in the immortal words of Five Man Electrical Band signs, signs everywhere a sign, blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind. You hear me knocking.