Public Service Ambiguity

New Zealand children returned to school this month, when their summer holiday came to an end.

What a bunch of idiots.

But you kind of have to feel sorry for them.

The first day of school in New Zealand is always set aside for the annual de-lousing and anti-rabies regime, a difficult, but necessary public health program.

Then it was back to the grind, to sitting in Social Studies, gazing upon the giant wall atlas, day-in and day-out, with the disappointing realization flickering to life in every child’s mind that, yes, they still live in New Zealand.

A little harsh, I’ll admit, but not nearly as grim as what I discovered last night on the way home from my local and passed a bus shelter with this sign:

I stood for minutes wondering what it was about, because I enjoy deciphering the subtexts of public signs, and because, what else was I supposed to do while I was urinating?

But the poster was so ambiguous, I had to take a picture of it with my mobile productivity device.

The poster seemed to be saying that drivers tend to speed up at school crossings, with the goal of running children over, and they shouldn’t. For whatever reason.

I soon doubted this interpretation. What if the sight of a student crossing a street recalled to a driver his or her own de-lousing experience, thus triggering a kind of post-traumatic stress road rage to the level of vehicular homicide? Auckland Transport, I reasoned, surely would view this as a value-add. After all, if drivers were encouraged to run-down children at school crossings, fewer children would make it to adulthood who otherwise would have run children over as a consequence of their own post traumatic de-lousing stress disorder. Sure, it would require patience, but I bet that after two or three generations, Auckland Transport would see a dramatic decrease in school crossing vehicular homicides.

But at the very least, that would require Auckland Transport to advise drivers to speed up recklessly at school crossings, which, I concluded, this particular poster was not doing. (Note the phrase “Slow down around schools”.)

Then I started thinking, maybe Auckland Transport wasn’t talking to drivers, but rather, to the students.

If you study the poster closely, you’ll see that the only object in need of slowing down is the dorky student himself.

And while we’re at it, why should we assume that the dork is turning to look at a speeding car? What if we assume that the dork is turning to look at an adult who is offering some helpful advice. Under this assumption, the scenario becomes very clear, with the adult (not pictured) saying:

Hey, slow down around schools, huh? Don’t you know how dorky you look, running to school? You really shouldn’t. The only thing waiting for you on the other side are two bullies who spotted you eagerly running across a busy street. For what? To stare at a wall atlas depicting New Zealand as the east coast of Australia because it was printed in America? You’re just running to your own beat-down, son. And look at your shoes? Who wears black high-tops with grey woolens? Who the hell dressed you, your dog? Why don’t you do yourself a favor. Stop before you reach the other side, turn around, go back home, shut the door, and do what your parents did when they were your age: start a meth lab.

Oh…uh, sorry. I think I got carried away recalling one of my own childhood traumas.

But, having said all that, I don’t think that’s what this poster is saying, either. In the end, I think what the subtext of this poster is getting at is bad acting.

Frankly, whatever this kid is selling, I just don’t buy it.

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