Mind the Signs
Alter Ego on the Loose
By Steve Carr
Steve Carr is away on what he claims is a well-deserved vacation. As I was unable to secure a leave of absence from the editor, he agreed to let me, Alter Ego, fill in. Steve promised to return as soon as possible. I suggested he come back when he’s good and ready.
As I drove him to the airport, he prattled on about what should and shouldn’t be included in the column. He said I should mention, at least once, the wonderful childhood he enjoyed, how amazing his mother is, and how wise and beautiful his wife and children are. Oh, and I was to say something about the majesty that is Idaho. Consider it done.
He had a lot to say, so we took the scenic route to the airport. Along the way I feigned interest with an occasional well-timed nod while checking out the sights in this “idyllic” town of his. Do you have any idea how many directional, instructional, and cautionary signs there are in Idaho Falls, aka River City? There is little risk in going astray here.
The entrance to Rose Hill Cemetery was posted, “No Trespassing after Dark.” I wondered if the sign was a result of the hijinks I pulled in the cemetery with Steve’s high school friends under a full moon. Or maybe it was just to discourage curiosity seekers looking for the side-by-side headstones of “Ware” and “Wolf.” What I really wanted to know was: may I trespass before dark with impunity?
Farther down the road at Tautphaus Park, I read, “No Alcoholic Beverages in the Park.” Steve claimed the missive provided succinct clarity. I’m putting Jell-O shots on the menu for my next picnic there.
On Broadway there were more signs, of every type, and exhortations from the Bible. One church marquee read, “Our minister is on leave. Come celebrate this Sunday with us.” It wasn’t Steve’s church, but he’s gone, too, and I thought that was a church service I might enjoy.
After dropping off your regular essayist, I took a drive to get my head around this business of dos and don’ts of IDAHO magazine column writing. But the signs—they were everywhere. Was Steve somehow responsible for them, knowing I’d be left unchecked during his absence? At the outskirts of town, near a large automobile junk yard, I read, “No loitering, unless you have reason to be here.” This one could not have been meant for me—loitering is my main reason for being. I headed east on Highway 26, where the last sign for miles advised, “Warning to tourists, don’t laugh at the natives.” Shoot me now.
I drove for an hour and my guffaws had calmed to snickers as I crossed the border into Wyoming. Not four miles into the cowboy state, a restaurant/bar marquee welcomed me with, “Exotic Dancers Saturday Night. Families Welcome.” It was lunch time and for once I was disappointed to be without Steve’s company. We’d both have felt right at home there.
I followed the icy Snake River back to town, my mind flooded with ideas, none of which quite comported with Steve’s admonitions. I stopped at a popular park near the falls for inspiration, the trees now flocked with snow, the swirling water’s edges turning to ice. Even I saw the beauty here. Thinking of you, Steve, I decided to do my part by posting a warning sign in this heavenly place you call home. It reads, “Walking on unfrozen water can be hazardous to your health.”
As for a column? Maybe next time.