"A sign spoke to me, said I was in trouble." "If you're talking to signs, you are in trouble." -- Harris & Trudi, 'LA Story'

Life A new traffic sign has appeared on Princes Avenue in Liverpool (well actually it could have been there for weeks but I wasn’t reading on the bus this morning for a change). It’s large, and red and in white Helvetica across the middle it says:
”Changed Priorities Ahead”
Being in the kind of philosophical mood that usually descends just before Christmas I burst out laughing and wondered if it was talking directly to me, in much the same way that the electronic signs were imparting advice to mid-life crisis victim Steve Martin in LA Story.

I’ve seen these kinds of signs before, in which it seems as though the planner has thought about the words he’s using and deliberately imparted a double meaning. On a coach trip to Dublin (this one if you must know) we passed at a turn-off where a sign simply said ‘You’re going the wrong way. Turn back.’ which was the most sensible advice I’d heard from anyone up until that point in my life. As I sat on that bus this morning I began to wonder if we’d be better off as a society someone spread similar signs throughout the place imparting these little ideas.

These would be uplifting phrases, shorter even than a haiku, just enough to make you think, undiluted by the superstition of horror-scopes. That it shouldn’t be state owned either – reading Orwell explains why that would be a bad idea – there’s quite enough government bought advertising telling us what not to do for the good of our health, and it’d probably be spoilt because the lunkhead who was given the job of running the project would sign some sponsorship deal and the sign would essentially be shilling for Coke.

Three distractions broke my reverie. Firstly, someone had noticed me laughing to myself and her eyes sparkled. Secondly, that I lack the imagination to even begin to design one of these uplifting phrases, at least not ones which wouldn’t become intensely irritating the twentieth time you’d seen them that month and thirdly I realised that churches have been doing this for years anyway on the signs outside their doors, either through some pun or bible verse and they clearly have only been of sporadic help.

Clearly, as we sat in traffic for a very long time at the lights the words on this particular sign really meant that the cars heading across town would have more time to move than those heading inwards. But are ‘changed priorities ahead’? Will I at some point in the next couple of months have some massive change in my life which means that writing this blog or watching quite so many movies and all the things I do to get by will become less important?

Of course not – at least not on the strength of a traffic sign – if I believed that than my priorities really will have changed and not necessarily for the better. But the point is for the first time in ages I considered the possibility, I’m not, to use an obvious cliché, stuck on this particularly road forever; and that’s pretty valuable.

Thank you, Keith or Lucy or Andy (or whatever the name of the sign writer is).

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