Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Signs of Life

Let's say you are driving down the road and you see this sign

For me, when I see this sign, I can't get into the left lane fast enough. On one hand it is comforting to know what lies ahead, but on the other hand I MUST comply with the sign immediately.

This sign doesn't say the distance, but let's say it's a sign that says in 1 mile the lane is closed. I will still change lanes that instant for fear of what lies ahead.

Now this article isn't a license review test of safe driving tactics in work zones, but there's a concept in this needing to be in the right lane before the fact that I want to try to illustrate.

While the need to change lanes does need to happen, the extreme level I take it to is the part I want to examine. Everyone will get over, but my anxiety and fear of being in the wrong lane is probably greater than most others.

In life outside the open road there are few signs that state what is going to happen ahead, so we have to make our own. While I do feel anxious on the road when I need to get over, the anxiety is nothing compared to lack of signs of the road.

Let's use this example; let's say you are driving up a hill on a three lane interstate doing 75. You have an 18-wheeler tailgating you and you approach the crest of the hill. Right at the crest you see this confusing sign:

So, are there one lane or two lanes closed? What lane or lanes are closed? If you slow down Mr. tailgater is probably going to meet your rear bumper so you have a pickle. As you reach that crest you have no idea what to expect. This is what my world is like. There are signs, but I can't understand them. When I do and they are perfectly laid out I go to the extreme with them because it is so nice to have that prediction of what lies ahead.

There's a major hazard that comes with taking what I do know to the extreme. I had a hard time in school when the metaphorical road sign said, "Paper due in 1 week" at the same time three other signs said similar lines. It would be like seeing a road sign that laid out every construction zone for the next 500 miles. Imagine that, "Left Lane closed ahead, followed by right, left, center, left, right, left, center, shoulder, bridge work..." How could one prepare for that? I know I was unable to.

There's a fine balance to these signs. If I know something is going to need to be done or changed I will do it right away and to the extreme. So long as a proverbial lane needs to be changed it will be the only thing my mind thinks about. If there are too many signs I will be overwhelmed.

I don't know if this visual metaphor has relayed what I was trying to say, but I do know, with road and life signs, there is one thing to be avoided. The Onion, a satire newspaper, once ran a one picture story that read, "US Department of Transportation ends the "Bridge Out Five Feet Ahead" sign. I don't care if that was a fake story, that story and concept fits into this concept perfectly. I need to know when something lies ahead, but if something is sprung upon me without warning then, well, I wouldn't want to be the one to find out the dangers of having a bridge out five feet ahead, and I'm sure you wouldn't either.


  1. Aaron, your metaphor is clear and very informative. You are astonishing in your ability to convey just what you go through every day. Thanks for letting me in on what goes on in your brain. It really helps me.

  2. One way I cope with this is to remember the due date of assignments before hand. Then after knowing the due date, I will start working in bits and pieces so that I can wrap everything up when the deadline is near.