Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dear God, Give Me a Sign

Besides advertising that holds you down and kicks your ass, locals here are given to personal testaments that would never see the light of day in more organized communities. The first time I drove through Clearwater, last fall, I watched a young zealot manhandling a 4 x 8 foot sheet of plywood down North Myrtle. He had invested hours painting his message in neat block letters:
Jesus Christ is coming SOON and
He is going to KILL
everyone who is not Born Again!!!
Born-Again-Man is likely the endpoint of a progression that starts down here with the ubiquitous sandwich board, on which an endless parade of sandwich-board-men and -women hawk everything from $5 foot-longs to a strip joint called Mons Venus. Outside the Pinellas County Sherriff's office last week was an otherwise normal-looking lady with a sign reading:

Police Unfair to Jaywalkers!

Carry-it-yourself messages are not the only medium in town. Newspaper classifieds here commonly publish squibs like:

Thank you, dear Lord, for punishing your enemies!

No doubt submitted - and paid for - by a relative of Born-Again-Man. The same relative may be responsible (if I can use that word) for:

Scientologists Suck!!!

Tampa Bay is a land where Scientology is half-revered, half feared. Also last week, a nearby pizza joint that routinely posts specials and menu items on its sign posted this plaintive appeal:

Happy 14th Birthday, Angela!
God Help Me!

Actually, I'm sure the comma was not in there, but I have considerable editorial discretion here. Despite an appalling absence of rigorous punctuation, personal billboards of all persuasions do have one common excess: exclamation points. I think the number of exclamation points is intended to convey the level of fervor for the sentiment expressed

Florida is perhaps the only state that approves of makeshift roadside memorials to loved ones who have departed this mortal coil via the windshield of a car. Paeans to Linda or Rocco or Satchel-Butt appear at regular intervals on most roads. The state apparently sees the signs as an effective, if macabre, deterrent, since a bureaucratically correct message is fixed to the top of each such memorial:

Drive Carefully!

It seems to me that the state's message would be more effective and certainly more personal if it were less generic. Depending on the cause of a crash, the topper sign might read:

Don't Drink and Drive!


Check your Brakes Soon!

Or perhaps Born-Again-Man could schedule an appearance at each such memorial, saying:

See? I Told You!

I could be wrong, but I don't think so.


1 comment:

  1. Long-time readers, if there are such critters, might recognize this column as a rerun of something I did a year or so ago. I was fiddling with the blog machinery the other day and this sort of shuffled to the top. I don't know why. In fact, much of the machinery that makes this blog work is a freaking mystery to me. If you know the answer, please keep it to yourself.