“Dangerous Crosswinds May Exist”
by Randall Auxier
Future I-26 doesn’t come up to federal standards for an official “interstate highway.” (Now, now, there can be no civilization without bureaucracy, so don’t go there and I won’t either.) Apparently there are a couple of curves that are too sharp and grades that are too steep, or some such. So somebody has to come up with the money to tear up a perfectly good road and bring it up to federal code. Pretty expensive. No one seems in a great hurry to do it. Hence, this road has been “Future I-26” since 2005. With my fellow motorists I drive into a perpetual “not yet.” I couldn’t help wondering whether I was seeing “Past I-26” in the rearview mirror. Probably not.
This sign, and others like it, have opened up a new branch of philosophy, which I call “Highway Ontology.” This is a study of the modes of temporality, space, and even Being, Itself, based on our difficulty describing things as limited by road signs. We use pictures when we can. But that doesn’t always work. It’s not easy, for instance, to find a picture showing crosswinds. This is what the Irish worked out. To me this seems to say “Used Rough Rider Condom Ahead.”
On the other hand, the state of New Mexico decided to try a more discursive approach. On both I-40 and I-25, one encounters yellow caution signs saying “Dangerous Crosswinds May Exist.” And so they may. No, no, that isn’t strong enough. I insist, as an empiricist that they do, in fact, exist. I have written to the NMDOT, as a philosopher, to advise that they strengthen their stand on this issue. I see this as my civic duty.
I think every highway department may need more than a mere philosophy major as an adviser. I think we might need graduate level radical empiricists, people with expertise in temporality, space, and possibility. I have a feeling that someone pretty advanced came up with this sign in Ireland. It reduces things to their most iconic significance. One need not describe this possibility; one truly sees it. The subtlety of this piece of work is ontologically amazing. It is here, after all, to prevent what it depicts, right? By virtualizing a possibility, it prevents the actuality. And we all thought that possibilities were powerless, but this may be a principle we can appeal to in life as well.