Tim Istock colum: PSAs (Public Service Absurdities)

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 1, 2023

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By Tim Istock
For the Clemmons Courier
Here’s a digital freeway sign I saw recently while driving on Salem Parkway:

STATE LAW: No driving while impaired

Really? They’re kidding, right? And here I thought when it came to piloting a 5,000-pound mass of steel on wheels around the highways and byways of our fair state, anything was fair game. When did this policy take effect, and how did I miss it?

Yeah, so I’m obviously being facetious here because everyone, and I mean everyone, knows by now that it is illegal to drive while under the influence, right? I mean, unless you just recently immigrated from the jungles of Tasmania, you have to know that you can’t just get liquored up and go motoring around town like you own the place.

Then again, I’m not so sure our Tasmanian transplants wouldn’t be hip to the drinking and driving policy as well.

Shiruku:  “Hey . . Neybali, put down that firewater, don’t you know it’s against the law to drink and drive in America?”

Neybali:  “Of course I do, everybody knows that. But I’m OK … I’ve only had half an earthen jug … I’m good.”

Ok, so just who is this admonition targeting?

I mean, if you are already someone who genuinely cares about your own and your fellow man’s personal safety and thus abstains from drinking and driving altogether, you obviously don’t need the warning, right? On the other hand, if you’re currently running a blood alcohol content that’s quadruple the legal limit while blasting down I-40 with no car insurance, no registration, a revoked license owing to 6 prior DUI convictions and a half empty bottle of Wild Turkey nestled comfortably between your legs, not to mention an attitude of regularly thumbing your nose at the notion of having your jollies curtailed by anyone at any time for any reason, regardless of the consequences, then this message – a message we are casually assuming is even capable of being read in the first place by a habitual lush with a snootful, let alone heeding it’s warning – is not really going to have much of an impact, now is it?

So, you tell me, what’s the point?

Good question. I suppose the PSA could be aimed at convincing the harried businessman heading out for a three martini lunch to maybe cut it off at two, or guilt tripping the college student on his way to an off campus keg party to consider springing for an UBER ride if he ends up going undefeated at the beer pong table, or maybe even prompting the 89-year-old with diminishing reflexes and even poorer vision to forego the impulse brewski while waiting for his take out order at the pizza joint in favor of just chilling out for a few minutes and popping open a cold one when he is safely home.

Nah, my guess is that 99.9% of folks cruising down the interstate and spotting this public service notice simply mentally nod and say to themselves, “Yeah, so tell me something I don’t know,” and then proceed to go about their lives in the manner in which they had already planned without ever giving the information a second thought. After all, to their way of thinking, the long sobering list of unpleasant consequences associated with getting nailed for these kinds of irresponsible actions are things that only happen to other people, not them.

So, what to do then?

Well, I for one would be in favor of scrapping these kinds of patently obvious messages that offer scant chance of truly effecting stubborn, stupid, human behavior. Instead, use the cost savings to put together some truly useful PSAs.

For instance:

BE ADVISED: Betting regularly on the Carolina Panthers to win football games is not a financial strategy conducive to an early retirement.

WARNING: If you’re someone who doesn’t like picking up your dog’s poop when you take them for a walk, consider not buying a Great Dane.

NOTICE: Calling Mike Tyson an ugly, wash-up boxer with a lisp will likely earn you a trip to the emergency room and a plastic surgery consult.

See, now isn’t that better?