Today I was thanked by a speed limit sign.
Kinda strange, I know.
There’s a section of my drive to work where the speed limit changes. After enjoying a spirited romp down a rural two-lane highway, the town has posted signs asking that you slow things down to a more civilized pace as you enter a residential neighborhood. Those signs are the standard white-and-black rectangles with warnings of speed zone changes and the new limit. Nothing new. However, just past the traditional sign declaring the changed speed limit, there is an electronic sign. It has a radar gun and an LED display built in. If you roll past too fast, it flashes your speed in angry red numbers and reminds you to slow down. If you’re at or below the speed limit, it posts green numbers and the words “Thank You” up on the display.
Now, I know that this sign is not sentient. It’s just an assembly of sheet metal, wires, and microchips. Someone in a factory somewhere has programmed the computer and hooked up the circuits to make a device that prompts us to slow down and promotes safer driving. It’s just a box, doing what it was designed to do.
But, still….I was thanked by a speed limit sign.
Every day, the headlines of the news bring us stories. Accounts of a security guard killed for ‘disrespecting’ someone’s family member, of angry customers demanding a grandiose correction of some minor wrong. Fights and complaints and gritty ugliness. Friction between people, often caused by a failure to exercise basic guidelines of humanity. Things like: Ask permission. Don’t break things. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Apologize. Say please and… thank you.
Just down the road from the courteous traffic sign lies a cemetery. If you’re going the speed limit, you roll past quite slowly. Plenty of time to glance out the window and notice the rows of upright gray stones that mark graves. Hundreds, if not thousands, of reminders that other souls have walked our same path. Reminders that our time here is short, and memories will be all that remain. Prompting us to slow down and think about how we want to be remembered. Were we loving and kind or harsh and abrasive?
Maybe I’m naive, maybe I’m too soft for this dog-eat-dog world, but – if a freaking sign can do it – I think I’m going to stick with using “thank you”. As often and whole-heartedly as possible….
….That’s what I was thinking….