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Yard signs have become ubiquitous in suburbia. /Photo by Mark Kennedy

One day last week, our 18-year-old son was simultaneously watching three video screens.

He had an iPhone lifted to eye level in one hand and a laptop computer balanced on his knees. Meanwhile, he would occasionally lift his gaze to peer at a television across the room that was playing a Bruce Lee documentary on ESPN.

If he had glanced out the window just to the right of the TV, he would have seen a yard sign. It reads: Congratulations, Graduate. Class of 2020.

It is for him, but, frankly, he couldn't care less. This sign is an adult solution to a nonproblem, a Band-Aid on the parental loss of Facebook photo-ops associated with missed high school graduations.

Which brings us to today's topic. You heard it here first: Yard signs are the new Facebook. Despite living smack in the middle of the digital age, signs — one of man's oldest forms of communications — are having a golden moment.

Not long ago, yard signs were mainly used by Realtors and politicians running for office.

Now, they're everywhere.

In our corner of suburbia, there are yard signs about high school graduates we salute, schoolteachers we love, athletes whose jersey numbers we must remember, professional soccer clubs we support, churches we cherish, painters and home remodelers we've hired, tree conservation efforts we exalt, hygiene drives we care about, social-justice causes we endorse and the joys of foster parenthood.

Also, there is a spirited school-board election in our corner of Hamilton County that seems to have started a yard-sign war. Some of the signs are even bracketed by little American flags, which are meant to signal, I guess, that the candidate is pro-United States. Good call.

There are also yard signs in our neighborhood that say, "Slow Down, Children at Play." I think they represent the purest, most useful sort of yard-sign communication.

But back to the Facebook analogy.

One of my deeply held beliefs is that once middle-class people have all their basic material needs met — food, shelter and a yearly Florida Panhandle vacation — the next rung on the ladder of desire is notoriety.

And it's not just a middle-class thing. I follow one of the richest men in Tennessee on Facebook, who wants his followers to know what he ate for dinner.

Anyway, the human need to get credit for things is so strong these days that stacking "likes" on social media is not enough. We have to bore the motoring public with our personal stuff, too.

Too, many of us are walking more, which means we get to look at one another's yard signs for hours on end. I get to focus on that school-board race for about an hour a day, which is about 59 minutes and 59 seconds too much.

I have an idea for a product. It's very high-tech, and I need to apply for a patent. I call it: chalkboard-on-a-stick. I envision every front yard in America having one of these. The idea is that you can erase and change the message every day.

One day you might share: "We are cooking spaghetti tonight. Aren't you excited for us?"

Another day, it might read: "Our son made the the honor-roll wait list."

Or here's a good one: "Slow down, arthritic old people at play."

Email Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com.

 

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