story prompt: rats and priorities

1996 — Robert Dorton barricaded himself in his residential motel room in Billings, Mont., in August and held police off for more than 30 hours, firing dozens of shots at them, because he feared authorities were about to take away his 15 pet rats, some of which were reported to be the size of cats. Before the siege, according to animal-control officer Mary Locke, Dorton kissed one of the rats and referred to them as “my brothers.” Right then, she said, “I knew what I was up against.”

Personally, I think Mary Locke would make an interesting main character. I like characters who do something for a living that is out of the ordinary.

I’ve always wondered about the invisible people who design and put up road signs. I think that profession harbors more than a few independent thinkers and odd ducks. Especially in England and Scotland.

semicolonTake, for example, this street sign on the left. Yes, it is in fact a semicolon. The whole story (and a close up) is here along with other odd street signs, including one of a squid. My favorite all time street sign in England (my dearly beloved is a Brit, so I have spent a good amount of time there) is this one on the right. changed prioritiesVery existential, no? In fact it’s the odd English way of telling you that the authorities have been messing with the right-of-way patterns in an upcoming intersection. This particular photo of the changed priorities sign comes from the cover of an album put out by the group British Andy.

So the question is, what do an animal control officer in Montana and a sign maker from, say, Edinburgh, have to say to each other? Anything?

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4 Replies to “story prompt: rats and priorities”

  1. A few years ago while my mother-in-law was visiting from California, we passed a sign that said “Dual Carriageway Ahead.” My mother-in-law, who is from California, asked what that meant. My wife, who has been living in Scotland for ten years now, told her that the single-lane country road we were driving on was going to turn into a two-lane road.

    “Oh,” my mother-in-law said, “so they mean Passing Lane.”

    “No,” my wife said, showing her fiercely international side, “they mean Dual Carriageway. If they had wanted to say Passing Lane I’m sure they would have been quite capable of doing so.”

  2. Speaking of converts… My mom and I spent 3 weeks driving around the Highlands (we’d been to Scotland before, but never just the two of us). Anyway, the first couple of days, she was a bit wary on the left side, but by the last two and a half weeks out in the country, she was lecturing other drivers on the pullover spots, and how if you’re going to take pictures and drive you should let others pass, and if you’re too old and scared to pull over you shouldn’t be driving, etc., etc. She fit right in!

  3. Boy, our signs are so ELeMeNTaRy over here in the USA and people sTiLL do’NT GET iT!

    What an EYE OPeNeR!

    AT LeAST the SiGN MaKeRs over there are aware of WHAT THeY are Up against… scary thought … MaYHaP they do over here ToO! *S*

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