When is enough already enough? Is there a time when, maybe, we should address a situation by leaving well enough alone.
Take a corner very near my home back in Washington. Having turned off of a fairly busy road that ran along the lake, onto a side street that wound up the hill, there was a stretch of road, maybe 200 yards in length, that ran straight and fairly level before it ended at a T, requiring a sharp turn to either the left or the right. At the end of this slight stretch of road was the hill rising steeply behind it. It seemed completely intuitive to me that a person should stop, or at least slow most dramatically, before turning one way or the other. Still I did not think it particularly strange or unseemly to find a stop sign there, reminding the driving public of that obvious need for caution.
Years passed. Then one day I noticed several additions along this brief stretch of road. A short distance before each of the stop signs at either end was a new sign. It was a square yellow sign set on end and showed a red octagon in its center below a forward pointing arrow. “Stop Sign Ahead” was clearly the point.
Sometimes a point can be so sharply obvious, however, as to hurt. After that I could not turn out of my neighborhood onto that short stretch of road without shaking my head. There was scarcely enough road there to gather any speed before a 90 degree turn was clearly required. This was made obvious from any point on the road by a house and hill on the horizon in one direction and a large tree and a lake in the other. If that weren’t enough, the stop signs at the end of the road in both directions were clearly visible from any point along the road. They were even more clearly visible from any point at which you could see the warning sign alerting you to the stop sign ahead.
In a quiet little neighborly section of this scenic community where does a helpful traffic sign become a waste of money? An insult to our intelligence? A public eyesore? A banner for Captain Obvious?
Lest you get too comfortably amused at the peculiarity and excess of small town Washington, let me hasten to say that I have my doubts my last home town is alone in their zeal to post excessive signage. Few places are safe from Captain Obvious these days and the creepage of sign pollution that alleviates our need to engage our own powers of observation.
Just across the river in Portland, OR I discovered a beautiful little garden terrace at the Kohler Pavilion of OHSU.
As I enjoyed the 7th floor views of Portland and the lovely sunshine of early summer I looked down toward the bench where I sat my bag. There on the low wall behind the bench I spied this little sign.
Captain Obvious strikes again!