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.