Signs of the times

It’s been perhaps 20 years, but I remember the sign distinctly. State of Illinois road crews were working on the highway going through Meredosia and as you approached Dosh from the east, the sign said, “Road Improvement Ahead.” Going through Dosh you could see a sign that read, “Caution: Road Improvement.” Then the real kicker came when you crossed the bridge into Pike County and were greeted with the announcement, “End of Improvement.” Some local wit had added his own sign underneath, saying, “No Kidding.” Except he didn’t use the word “kidding.”

My dad once threatened to pull a similar stunt. Our house in Perry was and is located only a block from the school, so to keep all little Perr-ians safe, the town had posted signs saying, “Slow Children.” One of these ended up right in front of our house and Dad always said he was going to write, “Amen!” underneath it when his boys wouldn’t get up in the morning.

I know that signage can be expensive and that Jacksonville already has its share of them, but I keep thinking we could use just one or two more. How about a sign on the town square directed at shoppers looking for a parking place? Something like “Keep Circling. The Second Coming is Near.” And for any motorists trying to pull out on Walnut when the shifts change at Passavant, the CSC operations are getting out and JHS lets the rascals loose, it would be appropriate to have flashing lights saying, “Pitch your tent and try again tomorrow.” Perhaps newcomers approaching Jacksonville from the east might welcome a sign simply saying, “Keep on Coming. There’s more to us than a prison.” From the west we might erect something stating, “Yes, Our Hospital has its own Baseball Field.” The south entrance to Jacksonville might have the greeting, “Motel City,” and those entering our fair city from the north my be met by a sign saying, “If You’re Looking for Virginia, You Just Passed It.”

There’s a burger place on Morton that could make use of a sign simply indicating, “If we got your order correct please pull up and wait. There’s been some mistake.” The old Three-Legged Dog cafe might have calmed a few customers’ nerves by posting a warning that, “We are not located in an earthquake zone. That was the sound of our espresso machine.” And on rare summer days when the door to Our Town Books is open at the same time someone opens the front door of The Soap Company Coffee House and you find yourself struck by the double-barreled aroma of old books and freshly ground java, a message stating, “Sniff Here for a Little Bit of Heaven” might be appropriate.

When I was roaming the town as an Illinois College student there was a tiny combination knick-knack and what-cha-ma-call-it shop near the square that was operated by a dear little old lady who saw no need for a hearing aid in spite of the fact that she couldn’t hear loud thunder. We always thought that a sign saying, “It’s not me! It’s you! Learn to speak up!” Those who were around Jacksonville in the 1950s still joke about a hamburger joint that might have displayed a menu stating, “You can have your burger medium-burnt or well-burnt.”

Several years ago, the insurance companies of France penned an unusual stipulation on their policies. If you are driving in the famed circle of traffic around Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, all policies go out the window. In case of an accident the cost is split 50-50 between the two drivers. A dozen boulevards converge on this famous Parisian landmark and driving nightmare. The parking lots of County Market and Walmart could do well to update their signage to something like, “Hold on, Pierre! In case of accident, a Walmart associate will not be available to help you.”

I am forever turning my car into the wrong drive at the Our Saviour’s school parking lot. I suggest that the local parish install something along the lines of, “For all you Protestants who can’t read, this is an exit.”

I may add one personal sign to the Jacksonville streets. I’ve been in town for a good number of months and still sometimes have trouble finding my street. If my neighbor down the street has her porch light on, that’s a signal. If it’s daylight I can see a little orange post, but after dark I’m clueless. I was spoiled by living in Arenzville where there were only a half dozen streets. This town is just too, well … streety. Perhaps I could use a sign that simply says, “Turn here, Dummy.”

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