We’ve all thought it, and so I might as well say it.
If one resides with a group of individuals who apparently are not like-minded enough to perform the ancient ritual of incorporation, whereby their tiny outpost is elevated from “wide spot in the road” to “a town,” or “a city,” or “a confederacy” (though I’m told we frown on that last one), it is extremely hard for me to justify using my brake pedal when passing through it.
You see, in my mind, speed limit and reduce-speed-ahead signs exist for the purpose of protecting civilization. However, the key and debatable word in that theory is “civilization.” Rome is a bastion of civilization. London is a bastion of civilization. Melvina (Wisconsin), population thirty-ish, seems to fall somewhat short of both those lofty precedents or even the numbers set by, say, a tribe of African pygmies. Four houses, a bar, and a speed limit sign that could be confused with the daily low temperature do not, at least according to most high school textbooks, qualify as a society worthy of record. It might count as a village, an outpost, or a lost tribe of Israel, but an extensive network of roads linking Tully’s Tavern to those four houses cannot be considered the inspiration for Ozymandias. Consequently, and to come to a point, I rather resent being asked – nay, demanded – to slow down and take in the sites – the sites being three cows, a derelict convenience store, and a rusted out Volkswagen.
In my mind, for a village to motivate a reevaluation of arrival time, it has to give a good reason. And if one is curious as to what exactly a good reason is, they only need to remember the three Ps – police, post office, and parking. Simultaneously, the following are examples of things that will not motivate a reduction in speed, let alone an all-out stop:
1. Bars (Particularly ones the owner had the uncommonly bad sense to build less than six feet from the highway – step out for a smoke, and suddenly there’s a Chevy Tahoe with one ugly hood ornament.)
2. Gift shops (Look! They got the whole town to pose for this postcard!)
3. Scenic overlooks, parks, and historical markers (Question: Why do most individuals stop at any of the aforementioned places? Answer: Emergency restroom stops. Question: What happens when there is no restroom at said location? Answer: The scenic overlook becomes an obscenic overlook.)
Returning to the initial point, what is perhaps oddest about these loosely knit hosts of humanity is not so much that the speed limit is reduced, but rather that it is reduced so much. Near as I can figure, the only reason four houses and a bar need a speed limit under twenty-five miles per hour is to make the place seem larger than it actually is. Logically, it certainly isn’t tied to how many people are in the town, because if they were to host an annual “Play in the Street Days,” odds are good most would survive. Heck, even if they were to stand in the middle of the street, link arms, and play “Red Rover, Red Rover, let the Lincoln Navigator come over,” the townsfolk’s combined girth would probably only allow them to block one lane and maybe a bit of the shoulder.
It should also be noted that there are plenty of reasons the populace should encourage people to pass through as quickly as possible – threat of invasion, for one. I’m fairly certain that, with approximately six phone calls, most people could rustle up sufficient manpower to both capture and occupy any unincorporated hamlet one cares to name. Likewise, a keg of Miller Genuine Draft is within most individuals’ economic means; thus, subduing the populace long enough to put the city to the torch would be a simple operation. But there are two problems with this plan. One, it is based on the average non-boy scout’s ability to start a fire that would immolate something other than themselves, which is iffy at best. Two, it hinges on the average Joe’s ability to not join in a beer party, and personally that is not a bet I want to make while living in Wisconsin.
It seems the only viable solution involves a particularly daring soul and a can of black spray paint – although I dare say individuals are going to get suspicious when the speed limit jumps from fifty-five on the highway to eighty-five in town. But what can one do? It’s easier to turn a three into an eight than a five.