Monday, December 28, 2015

Reading the Signs

I get a kick out of signs. I suppose it goes far back to the dawn of time when, on long road trips before the invention of the interstate road system, the boredom would be broken by a succession of small signs spread out over half a mile or so. (“Shaving Brushes…You’ll soon see ‘em…on display…in some museum…Burma Shave” or “On curves ahead…remember, sonny…that rabbit’s foot…didn’t save the bunny…Burma Shave”). At the height of their popularity, there were more than 7,000 of these signs spread across the United States.
And I have always loved, still talking of road trips, the ones that say “Eat at Rosies! 7 miles ahead! We’re OPEN!” “Eat at Rosies! 6 miles ahead. Yessir, we’re OPEN!”…and you know damned well that when you get to Rosies, there will be a sign on the door saying “Closed.”
And how often have you passed, at night, a dark and shuttered store with a prominent “Open” sign in the window.
A large gas station in Los Angeles has the comforting slogan: “Your Only a Stranger Here Once.” My reaction was always “That’s nice, and if you ever learn to spell I might actually come in.”
At a supermarket I frequented near my home in Northern Wisconsin, the new deli/bakery put up a large sign trumpeting their “Bacon Powder Biscuits.” My pointing out to them that perhaps they might have meant “Baking Powder” was met with a totally blank stare, and the “Bacon Powder” sign remained up for another week or so. During deer hunting season (a huge tourist draw for the area) the deli’s baker came up with a brilliant idea to draw shoppers: tiny balls of dough he advertised as “Deer-droppings Donuts.” Yummy! And for St. Patrick’s Day one year he featured “Green bread!”…not, I suspect, one of the store’s best sellers.
But my favorite sign of all was in front of a small church in North Hollywood. It proudly proclaimed this to be “The Church of Our Blessed Lord and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Lest anyone confuse it with a synagogue or mosque, under the church’s name was helpfully included, in parentheses, the word “Christian.” Almost incentive enough to make me take up church-goin’. But not quite.
I remember fondly a co-worker’s car which was plastered with “America for the Americans!” “Buy American!” “U.S.A is #1” “America! Love it or Leave It!” The car was a Volkswagen.
Bumper stickers…sadly seldom seen much nowadays…are a class all in themselves, probably more related to the old Burma Shave signs than anything else. But while I love them, their humor was thought out in advance. (My favorite, seen on a car in Alabama, featured a Confederate flag with a red slash through it and the words: “The war’s over! You lost. Get used to it.”)
Signs are everywhere…and if you like to include newspaper headlines you might enjoy the recent headline on the satiric The Onion: “The Iraq War: Celebrating four years of winning!”
Where would we be without the ability to laugh?

No comments: