Give ‘Em A Brake


Summer is mainly known for vacations, swimming, blockbuster movies, and baseball but there is another summer ritual that none of us are particularly fond of: road construction.  Ever year when the days get longer and we’re  cruising down the highways of the nation en-route to our next summer adventure we start to see the flashing lights, orange cones, and throngs of brake lights ahead of us.  As we come to a complete stand still on the interstate and start cursing you begin to notice the temporary road signs and florescent safety vests of the workers.

In 1993 the standard “Construction Ahead” and “Reduced Speed Ahead” signs in my area were replaced with what I can only assume was considered an extremely hilarious phrase from the department of transportation: “Give ’em a brake” was the wording on the new road signs.  A not all to clever play on words encouraging motorists to slow down through a construction zone for the safety of the workers.  Since kids pay extreme attention to even the most trivial of detail I quickly noticed this new signage and pointed it out to my parents who didn’t seem to care.  For whatever reason I thought it was quite interesting.  Kid’s are strange that way.  Or at minimum I was strange.

As the summer drew on, the signs were supplemented with more variations of the phrase. Wording such as “Reduced Speed Ahead: Give ‘Em A Brake” and so on.  Of course I made sure to note every instance of these signs as I though they were a whacky new take on something old and familiar.  Surely I could attribute it to those heady days of the early Clinton years.

As construction season came to a close I forgot about the signs until summer of 1994 when yet another new variation hit the byways of America: “Give ‘Em yourself A Brake”.  Yes the line was painted through “‘Em” and “yourself” was written in a different font to make it appear as if someone had defaced the standard signs.  At first I was fooled and made sure to point it out to my parents who, again, could not have cared less.  Apparently the signs had some kind of message regarding fines for speeding through a work zone and the phrase was adapted as such.  When I started noticing the same adjustment made all over the bi-state area I finally caught on to the fact that it was just the new slogan for the summer of 1994.

I haven’t seen these in years but apparently they left some kind of an impression on me as over 20 years later I am reminiscing about them.  Today I would likely have the attitude of my parents and not give the message a second thought, only being angry that my progress is being impeded.  Time goes by so fast that I rarely seem to notice the details of anything. Heck, if I were to walk through my house and truly examine the decorations and knick knacks on display I’m sure I would be surprised to find numerous baubles scattered about that my wife will tell me have been sitting out for years that I’ve never really seen.  As a child I literally knew every nook and cranny of my household as well as every item within and approximately how long it had been there.  It’s amazing how as you age you lose sight of your surroundings and only focus on your destination.

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