it’s a big scary world out there!

Sign Sign everywhere a sign
Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign

~ “Signs” by Five Man Electrical Band ~

Folks, it’s a big scary world out there! Or, at least, that’s how it seemed when I was tripping around in the west. Almost everywhere we went, if there was a bulletin board, or a trailhead kiosk, or a sign board next to the road, there would be a “warning” sign of one kind or another. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t give thought to photographing more of them as I would have had quite the collection if I’d started doing so at the beginning of the voyage.

Yessirree, turns out there is danger around every corner. Big bee nests along hiking trails, and Mountain Lions waiting to pounce on you up in the hills. There are ticks that want to crawl onto you and give you Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Lyme Disease, and venomous Black Widow and Hobo spiders hiding under rocks and toilet seats in outhouses. And then there are the “unpredictable” elk that might take after you if they feel provoked (I ask you, when was any wild animal predictable?).

There are wily bears lurking behind every bush waiting to rip into your untended camp cooler, and let’s not forget those ubiquitous rattlesnakes that are holed up in the rocks beside every hiking trail. And if there isn’t a sign, there’s a verbal warning from an innkeeper to “Watch out for the wild pigs that are up the canyon above the lake!”

Wild pigs? You’ve got to be kidding?!! Oh, yeah…right…like the ones that scamper through cow poop and track E. coli 0157 through spinach patches? Gotcha!

Worse still, there are signs warning of toxic algae in the rivers that we’d hoped to swim in. And more signs warning us about sneaker waves on ocean beaches that will grab you and carry you out to sea. And of undertows waiting to drown the unwary surfer, and dangerous beached logs that can crush you to death. Signs warning you of Poison Oak along hiking trails, and of falling rocks that might roll down and pulverize your car as you’re passing by. And then there were those truly *scary* bulletin boards with diagrams illustrating more than you ever wanted to know about tsumanis and what to do if you happen to be unlucky enough to be anywhere in the vicinity when one strikes.

And if all of the public signs aren’t enough to scare the heck out of you, even the pop bottles have warning signs describing possible injuries that might be incurred if you don’t open them exactly right. I thought I’d seen just about everything, but then while figuring out how to set a digital watch that one of us bought in a department store, I started flipping through the little instruction booklet that came with it. There were warnings not to even LOOK at that watch while riding a bicycle in case you crash into an obstacle. And more warnings not to WEAR the watch while doing anything dangerous like mountain climbing in case you got distracted and fell off a cliff. And even warnings about not looking at the lighted face of the watch while driving your car at night in case you got confused and got in a collision. I kid you not — there was even a warning about not looking at the watch while walking on a city sidewalk in case you tripped over a curb or crashed into a lamp post.

Folks, I gotta tell ya that it all seems a little sad that the world has become such a scary place. I don’t remember it always being so, but it just seems to become more and more frightening with each passing day. I’m not saying that it isn’t a good thing to be informed of dangers, but there’s a point where all of these signs and graphic images and labels and instructions warning you about the perils of wearing a wristwatch, become just a little too much. Is this what happens when all of us kids who were told that if we ran with scissors, we’d poke out an eye, finally grow up and get our turn to go out into the big world and scare the hell out of someone else?

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