You’ve Gotta Be Joking

 You’ve Gotta Be Joking

By Sean McVeigh

“Four ‘I’s in Mississippi, two eyes on the road,” “Get your head out of your apps,” “Don’t drive high, only ziti should be baked.”

I am not the world’s biggest fan of driving. Some people — weirdos, as I like to call them — actually find pleasure in driving cross country or taking I-95 to Florida. (Some like to do it on a bicycle, too, and I have another word for them…)  As much as I hate flying, I would still pick those iron birds from hell over anything more than about four hours in a car. Being in a car just always manages to get real old, real quick. I don’t find driving very relaxing and being the passenger usually doesn’t lower the blood pressure either. I cannot lie, though, when I see one of those jokes on a highway sign, I always give a chuckle. I am a sucker for a corny joke. Heck, I’m a sucker for all jokes!

Jokes are a universal language. They cut through a lot of other unnecessary clutter that we are met with in the world, day in and day out. One of the best things about jokes is that, like the people who tell them and the people they are told to, they come in all shapes and sizes. The spectrum can span from your classic knock-knock joke to a raunchy stand-up set with countless puns, dad-jokes and old Irish “proverbs” in between. Certainly, some jokes are meant for a more private audience — an intimate setting, you might say — but aren’t those the best? I am an unabashed fan of jokes in all forms. There are not too many that would disagree. However, one group has bravely come out and is bucking the trend — the federal government.

The U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has announced via its new manual that it is not a big fan of jokes. In fact, they are so against jokes that they have recommended that they are no longer put on highway signs throughout the country. This new manual, calling for the end of highway jokes, is not a Puritan prayer book. Nope, it’s just the “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways, 11th Edition.” Coming in at over 1,150 pages, this mind numbing publication has this to say about Changeable Message Signs (CMS): “Messages with obscure or secondary meanings, such as those with popular culture references, unconventional sign legend syntax, or that are intended to be humorous, should not be used as they might be misunderstood or understood only by a limited segment of road users and require greater time to process and understand.” No, that isn’t a joke.

It seems to me that the FHWA is trying to put a stop to the fun because they believe there are some people out there who won’t get the joke and might get into an accident because they will be thinking too hard? You have got to be kidding me. This goes so far beyond taking away the jokes. It shows that there is someone in the FHWA that thinks we’re all too stupid to have a little fun.

I’ve got a few questions for these all-knowing a—holes. Why is a manual about signs over a thousand pages anyway? Why on earth is that much red tape necessary to deal with signs on highways? Why are highways even a federal issue? (Thanks a lot, Ike!) The passage that I quoted above was found on page 519. Thank the good Lord for command + F searching on PDFs, or I would have literally died of boredom trying to find it! I tried using the table of contents but that alone was 36 pages. The FHWA was so worried about people getting hurt reading a joke on a highway sign that they almost killed me in the process.

Someone needs to tell these fun suckers to keep their grubby little hands off of life’s small bright spots. There is a lot that can be done to fix America’s roads and I don’t think that mandating that highway signs be mundane is the place to start.

I don’t just come with complaints, though. I bring solutions, too. I have the perfect P.R. move for the Federal Highway Administration, so listen up! … Come out and say this was all a joke!

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