Taking My Art On The Road

Some of my work

Some of my work

It’s hard to make a living as a writer, no matter how talented you are.  And if you’re a poet?  Forget about it.  Poetry doesn’t pay.  It may sound romantic to starve in a freezing attic in Paris, but the reality is that life is much more pleasant with a steady paycheck and benefits.

That’s why I took a job with the Department of Transportation; Division of Highway Poetry.

We write the pithy poetry for those LED highway message signs.  You know the ones I mean; they’re either permanently mounted over the highway, or temporarily set up at the side of the road.  They’re programmed with different messages, which sometimes flash to really get drivers’ attention.

I bet you’ve seen some of my work:

  • Click it or ticket.
  • Speed kills.
  • Phone in one hand, ticket in the other.
  • Loose lips sink ships.

The secret to successful highway sign poetry is to make it short and snappy.  Especially short.  You’ve only got a second or two for your message to register before the driver is past it and on their way down the road.

A former colleague of mine, Bud, had a real knack for this, but his stuff tended to be a bit too long for the medium.  You may have seen this poem of his:

This guy I knew once drove distracted,
So his car with another impacted.
His car was a wreck,
He broke his fool neck,
And his pain was severe and protracted.

He was really proud of that one, and rightly so.  It has great internal rhyming and a powerful message.  Alas, it was too much of a good thing.  A driver attempting to read that sign didn’t notice that the semi in front of him had stopped suddenly.  The ensuing 67-car pileup meant the end of the driver, as well as Bud’s career with the Division of Highway Poetry.

You might think that everything that can be said about driving has already been said, but I’ve still got lots of great ideas.  Here are a few ditties I’m working on now:

  • Only a doo-doo head texts while driving.
  • Don’t be a clown,
    Slow it way down.
  • Going slow?
    See the light.
    Drive your car
    In the lane on the right.
  • Knuckle down and buckle up.
  • Only talk when your hands are free,
    Doobee, doobee, doobee-ee.
  • Driving while drinking?
    What are you thinking!!??
  • Use your head or you’ll be dead.
  • Slow or stopped traffic ahead.
    Like that’s different from any other day on this road.
  • “Make sure your tires are properly inflated,”
    She suggested with breath that was bated.
  • What the heck; don’t wreck.
  • Bridge out ahead.
  • Watch for motorcycles…especially in California where those idiots come barreling right up the line between the lanes of traffic on the highway.  What is WITH that crazy, dangerous behavior?
  • You’ll get passed if you’re not fast.
  • Road rage isn’t nice.
  • To be or not to be, that is the question…that some drunken loser may decide for you if you don’t keep your eyes open and drive defensively!
    (*first line courtesy of William Shakespeare.)
  • DON’T CRASH!!!!

This kind of poetry may not have the soul-stirring power of Shakespeare’s sonnets, but I think I am providing a valuable public service.  And I bet even The Bard would have taken this gig had it been available back in his day.  In addition to 4 weeks vacation, we get full dental AND vision.


About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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39 Responses to Taking My Art On The Road

  1. Elyse says:

    Wonderful, Peg. But can you do an audio version for the blind drivers? I’m pretty sure that is a growing class.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Excellent work, Pegospeare. I think I’d pay more attention is all signs added “doobee, doobee, doobee” at the end. I love the sign welcoming tourists here: Maine: The Way Life Should Be. And when they leave: Maine: You’ve Had Lobstah, Now Get The Hell Out.”


  3. These are very good Peg, they’re sure to renew your employment contract if this is what you’re churning out.

    There was a funny road sign story a while ago. In Wales, the road signs are often in English and in Welsh, and the sign makers who didn’t speak welsh, emailed the English words for the sign to the place where they do the Welsh translations, what came back was what they thought was the Welsh translation, but was actually the out of office reply. And they had the sign made with that on and put up on the road! So it said “No entry for heavy goods vehicles, residential site only” and then underneath in Welsh “I am not in the office. Send any work to be translated.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • pegoleg says:

      Ha ha! I love this story.

      I’ve often wondered if, when you use a translator for important work, it might not be a good idea to have a back up translator to make sure the first one isn’t having fun/being malicious in their translations.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Carrie Rubin says:

    Ha, these are great. I love the Don’t be a Clown one. They could use that one for reals. 🙂


  5. Al says:

    Your continued efforts at public service always amaze me! It puts you in a class above Shakespeare because he was only ever about Bill. Taking a second job for the good of all goes above and beyond. In tribute to that I think this should be the sign on every road in America: “What Peg said ain’t bad, it’s that or a toe tag.”


  6. thedailydish says:

    I will look for your work as I make my way south to Hotlanta – starting tomorrow! WOOT!


  7. You take that bullet list, set it to a 4/4 beat and presto. You’ve got a highway rap. You’ve got the goods but you’re driving the wrong delivery vehicle. Stick with me, sister. Or maybe you don’t want to make any money off your art. Maybe you’re a purist.


  8. List of X says:

    It’s not just vision and dental – it’s knowing that your work is getting published and has a positive impact on people’s lives, usually.


  9. thursdaynext says:

    My favourites are “Use your head”& “What the heck” great job. We need potry like this in germany😁


  10. My favorite in this area is, “Don’t be an ass when you try to pass.” Of course, everyone ignores that one. Along with, “If I can see your nose hairs in my rearview mirror, you’d better propose.”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Bernadette says:

    Too bad that you were born too late to write those pithy poems that were along the side of the road for Burma Shave. You would have been a hit.


  12. I suggested, once, that they put the welcome sign on the WI/IL border that said…

    “Congratulations! You’ve just escaped to Wisconsin!”

    …but I was crudely rebuffed.

    This is why I work in accounting 😦


  13. Love that “What the heck; don’t wreck”
    All of them much better than the ones on our closest Federally funded to improve your life LED signs. They have things like “Take exit “X” for the travel show”..which is over 100 miles aways and no one cares…or another favorite “Pasadena gun show next exit” (Is that a warning or an invitation?). Of course there’s there wonderful “Hurricane season is here!” (Like all of us here along the coast/coastal areas don;t already know)
    We neeeed you to sign on here!


  14. Peg, you’ve just confirmed something I’ve always suspected: there is a job for everyone, regardless of, well, let’s just leave it at that. Here in Washington (where marijuana is legal), I think a very good sign might be: Reduce Speed, Choose Weed (but never while driving, of course).


  15. A valuable public service, Peg!
    My neighbors are trying to get the speed limit changed. They’ve developed a sign that reads “20 Is Plenty.” Hmm… I think I’ll have them consult your gems. You should start charging.


  16. pattisj says:

    Sounds like the perfect job!


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