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Filed Under Life

Litter And It Will Hurt

Posted November 21, 2005

During your holiday driving, you might want to familiarize yourself with some of the more prominent road signs. Admit it: you've never seen them before, and they often contain useful and fascinating information.

This is one of the best highway signs on Interstate 5 between Portland, Oregon and Olympia Washington. The sign doesn't mention a fine, just a number to tattle on violators. Will it really hurt? I imagine a musty dungeon, deep below the state troopers' headquarters, where Mistress Veronica will tell me exactly how exquisitely bad I've been. Or is it the bad kind of hurt, involving an ex-Marine? If so, I'll just go ahead and pay the fine.

Our nation's insistence on highway cleanliness reveals our obsessive-compulsive nature. Everything on the highway, from the roadkill, to the carbon- and sulfur-spewing roadster with the 'Wash Me' drawn into the grime on the windshield, to the average rest stop bathroom, is filthy. It's sham environmentalism, like recycling. Unless the median strip is critical habitat for a species of dung beetle, who can tolerate tons of carbon emissions, but will be wiped out by a single candy bar wrapper.

I wonder why there is no corresponding "adopt a city block" campaign. When I lived on West 95th Street in Manhattan, we sure could have used a Rotary Club adoption for our street, since garbage collection more or less corresponded to the metric calendar created by the Paris Commune during the French Revolution. It's odd that we insist on cleaning those places we drive by, rather than where we live.

Continuing north on I-5, some thirty miles out of Portland, you've escaped Liberal Latte orbit, and move into the land of Biblical verse billboards. Somebody pays good money for those, and I hope it's worth it. I can't ever make out what they're saying, first of all because I'm driving too fast, and second because the scripture is written using that flowery yet illegible God font that I associate with Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The billboard message is something about sin. I think. The problem is, what do I do about it as I'm driving? There's no plug for an EZ JEZUS or Sinz Away! at exit 54. Thoughts of sin flee from the mind when I see a sign for Mrs. Beesley's Burgers. Once I've eaten my burger, thrown the wrapper on the highway, and prayed that I don't get jumped by the Washington Department of Sanitation, I continue my drive.

Our highway signs instruct us on all the major points of Thanksgiving week: food, sin, and pain. During the holiday season, you should make sure to drive carefully. There are maniacs all over the road, on the mobile phone with the therapist, hurtling to and from their crazy families at top speeds. Chances are, you yourself are one of those wackoes. Another road sign provides an important reminder: "Fender Bender? Pull Over to the Shoulder". It's a helpful tip: the shoulder is the safest place to get out of the car and punch the guy who hit your car.



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