Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Surprising Sex Explosion That Killed Some Famous People

Last month was a big one for me. Not only did I turn twenty-nine and creep ever closer to wrinkly decrepitude, but I also passed my driver’s test. This may not sound like an accomplishment, seeing as how I’ve been driving legally for thirteen years and only rarely use the “pinballing from one parked car to another” strategy to travel, but for reasons I don’t understand I was required to re-take the written DMV test in order to renew my license. This caused a burst of stress second only is severity to going through puberty again, not because I feel I don’t know the laws of the road but instead because the prospect of taking the test — and being allowed to miss even fewer questions this time — dredged up a potent mix of adolescent anxieties I had repressed long ago.

Though I probably didn’t need to, I crammed, college-style, and read the entire California DMV handbook the night before. I got a perfect score, and my driver’s test is currently on display on my refrigerator. (Seriously.) But in reading the handbook, I came across a word I’d never heard before. It’s my word of the week.
sharrow (SHAIR-oh) — noun: the markings painted on road surfaces to indicating that both motor vehicles and bicycles use the indicated lane.

But is it weird to anyone else that I’d never heard this term before? I don’t recall it appearing in the DMV handbook when I first took the test back in 1998 — you know, back in the age when some drivers actually resented the presence of cyclists on city streets, if you can imagine that — but I’m totally familiar with the concept. I just had no idea that this portmanteau of share and arrow was used to refer to them. I don’t know why we need a specific term for them, but I guess sharrow is handier than “bike symbol thing,” which is what I would have called them had I ever felt the need to refer to them before, which I didn’t.

But if I can quibble for a second, is it not strange to create a symbol for a shared road that only represents one of the two entities that it's encouraging to be all buddy-buddy? Maybe? A little bit? I can think of several designs that might be more all-encompassing, and those are these:
  • some sort of half-car, half-bike contraption not unlike the centaurs of Greek mythology
  • a car and a bike kissing
  • a car and a bike getting married
  • a car and a bike cradling a baby that's a half-car, half-bike contraption not unlike the centaurs of Greek mythology
  • a photorealistic lobster (to get people's attention!)
So remember, the next time your piloting your motor carriage down the street, it’s a sharrow that you’re ignorantly driving over as you cut off an irate cyclist.

In closing, I should tell you that the “pinballing from one parked car to another” travel strategy is not an efficient one, but it is one that can get you noticed by other motorists. Also sharing arrows is also the polite thing to do if you ever travel back in time to Robin Hood days, so keep that in mind. Finally, I titled this post as I did because sharrows are one of the most boring topics ever and I wanted to trick you into reading it. I'm really sorry and yet am also not.

(The previous word of the week? Quiff. That and all the rest after the jump.)
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