It was dusk and a near-miss with a deer sprinting across my path, followed by a careless merging driver, kept me on edge. Neither talk radio nor music contributed to relief of my crankiness as I wheeled ever inward bound. Thoughts about my next business day entered my brain like an ice pick and gave me a headache. Like many business travelers are upon their return, I would be behind at the office. As a result, my stomach churned the overcooked chicken burrito I had scarfed down while waiting at baggage claim. Soon it was accompanied by that vague unsettled feeling you get just ahead of nausea. I knew full well what could come after that.
As a diversion, I focused more intently on negotiating the weather and traffic, and just as I was deciding whether to make a pit stop, I spotted a sign: Exit 98 B. My exit! Seeing that green square marker instantly changed my outlook. Suddenly, the weather wasn’t so bad. A few minutes later, the outline of downtown appeared through the darkness, followed by the colorfully illuminated Gateway Grid, a metal art sculpture symbolically representing entry into the city.
It’s easy for me to understand how a photograph of a child or family member can strike an emotional chord. But how is it that things like your car or boat or looking at your house can incite a warm and welcoming mind-set? Or feelings of pride? That Exit 98B sign represents more than the road I take to get home. It signified an end to my travels. For me, that Gateway Grid just before downtown stands for more than just an artistic shield masking less than flattering landscape beyond. It signifies a respect I have for folks bent on making where I live a better place. They don’t always get it right, but they’re trying.
There are many hometown signifiers that I hold in high emotional regard, from the high school I graduated from, to the duck pond I used to skate on in winter. What are your hometown signifiers and why?