Road Signs of Bewilderment

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

While traveling, I ran across this gem of a combination along the roadway, a model of convergence between traffic code mandates and the Sirens of irony.  It almost beckons wayfarers to explore what lies beyond the trailhead of this drive. Shall it be a safe harbor or a temptation to our demise?

While the upper sign was not unique to this area–there were several of these around a peninsula–the juxtapose with the naming plate presented a wonderment. Surely there was a requirement to label streets having no outlets but were those who christened the streets so informed of this mandate? It was either of a brilliant exercise of subterfuge on the part of a jokester, or a rare example of comedic duality germinating from bureaucratic constraints and lockstep. Perhaps maybe it even had a supernatural genesis, the road signage analog to Sirens luring bedazzled travelers to a nefarious end. (An “In” without an “out” within)

Admittedly I was one to be so beckoned by this curious sign. In many stories and literature of the past a common theme was a sinister lure accompanied by an often belatedly apparent forewarning, the kind where the moral-of-the-story is that this message is ultimately heeded by the protagonist yet universally ignored by the rest of the dramatis personae to their demise. Forced by temptation I was, it seemed, to choose between simply safely driving onward and challenging fate to lay bare what is truly beyond…or to just drive down the road and write something less flowery and boring like “it lead to a vacant lot with a dumpster”.   I’ll suppose if you have read my article thus far you’d prefer entertainment; so onward with the gonzo journalism.

Curiosity is a tune sometimes sung by vexatious Sirens, dueling with our own inquisitiveness for satisfaction.  I certainly am not immune to either, as proven by some rather costly benefits I’ve suffered in the past. Yet I caved to their call and drove down Inlet Drive. I passed a few blind curves and hills revealing nothing of what was ahead. I found two other roads later bisected along the way, clearly labelled “Dead End”. Were these signs in the literal sense or the figurative?  It was then that I realized that if sinister forces were at play I could imagine only two possible destinations at the base of this trap, and it all depended on the market value of the property: A Hotel California, where a guest could check out any time they like, but they could never leave; or if it was a road to ruin a worse fate awaited–a Roach Motel, where roaches check in but they don’t check out.

I later jokingly entertained the absurd, lamenting that a more scientifically philosophical approach might posit the road serves as a one-way gate to a void in space-time, filled with endless curious and now victim travelers desperate to escape, yet consigned to drive a merciless maze of interconnected roadway lacking any means of escape: An inlet without a corresponding outlet. What a torture that must be: to continually pass-by the same forlorn faces, resigned to their own captivity and needled by a prickle of hope called freedom.  Judging by the degree of rust upon the screws holding the signs to the pole, there must be hundreds, thousands perhaps, of endlessly meandering and wayward vehicles ensnared by this ruse over the years. The only saving blessing must be the increasing proportion of electric cars arriving into this purgatory of pollution.  I suppose when one is among the befuddled masses yearning to breathe free, it helps to not be choking on the smog.

Fortunately for me, I came upon the last milepost before perdition with a sudden moment of clarity, and extricated myself with an abrupt U-turn.  It wasn’t exactly insight or a gifted sense of foreboding that I can boast of my cunning. It was actually a recurrent case of Laryngitis afflicting the Sirens that broke their alluring spellbinding singing. That small crackle and pop was just enough to slap me back into reason. I suspect the governor’s past closure of basic health care facilities during the early COVID-19 lockdown prevented the Sirens from seeking out the Otolaryngologist of the Gods. I never thought any benefit could become of wildly stupid executive orders. That and the lack of proper health maintenance among mythological creatures, a few of us travelers certainly avoided a recursive form of doom. I will be much more the wiser and less tempted to fall victim to the allure of quirky road signage.  Yet there does remain a few signs that are certainly best obeyed. Given the anti-small business nature of a few states here in the U.S., another nearby road sign proved itself a strong predictor of the folly of starting some business ventures in this COVID constrained world…

By Darren Smith

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