Monday, April 28, 2008

Numbering Things

I noticed something when I was in Texas with my mom and my sister and we would go to Wal-Mart in Eastland or Abilene. My sister especially, but my mom too, would take note of which row number we parked in before we went into the store.

That never occurred to me. When I go to Wal-Mart (preferrably Target, but it's on the south end of town and I'm on the north end of town, and there's a Wal-Mart really close to me, so I go there for emergency shopping), I try to park in the row that's straight out from the main doors. If I end up in another row, I take note of the landmark (like the Coke machine, or the word "Pharmacy" on the wall) at the end of my row, so I can find my car when I'm ready to leave.

It wasn't until we finished our trip and I got back home that I realized the Wal-Marts around here don't number the rows in the parking lots. Not even the new one with the angled parking rows that make it hard to find landmarks. The entire eastern half of the United States has numbered rows at Wal-Mart, as near as I can tell from the ones we saw on our trip. But Southern California doesn't believe in numbering things.

This is a typical freeway sign around here. OK, it's farther north, but it has the same look as ours. The only things with numbers are the actual numbered-highway or interstate symbols. Our exits aren't numbered. They're just named.

People who commute into Orange County know that you come to the Jeffrey exit, then Culver, then Jamboree, then MacArthur, then the 55 freeway. So, depending on which exit you take for work, you start moving over when one of the earlier exits shows up.

And nobody can remember whether Oso Parkway comes before or after Avery Parkway, because that's in the middle of the commute when you're not paying attention and you're driving 80 mph anyway.

My point is that we do very nicely without any exit numbers on our freeway signs. It's our way of life, and it's different from the rest of the country, where all the directions in the RV Park directory (and even from helpful people on the phone) give an exit number as the most crucial piece of information. But I didn't care about that. I wanted to be sure I was on the right street.

Then I noticed in the last month or so (it may have been there longer, but I just noticed) that they're putting exit numbers on our freeway signs. This sign is one that I drive under on a regular basis. Notice the Mickey-Mouse, pasted-on exit number in the upper right corner.

Photo source (both):

That's new. And I don't like it. It's dehumanizing.

Next thing you know, all the Wal-Marts around here will number their parking rows, and the deli counter at Albertsons will install one of those Take-A-Number gadgets like in the Northeast where people aren't polite enough to wait their turn and have to be forced into civility.

No, numbering is a bad thing, a sign of the decline of civilization. I may not be able to stop it, but I can (and do) protest it.


Malott said...

"...a sign (pun?) of the decline of civilization."

Yes. No doubt human sacrifice is in the offing.

When I was a child our phone number was Market 8-7___. When it switched to 628-7___, oddly enough, gambling and prostitution did not rise up and destroy us.

Still... It is a little of your culture... Gone with the wind.

Anonymous said...

According to Caltrans, they started numbering exits in 2002, although obviously they aren't finished yet. I don't go up to Orange County very often, obviously, but the 78 has had numbers on some exits since at least 2004, when these photos were taken (although note that some of the pictures show exit numbers and some of them don't). I think all the exits have them now, though.


SkyePuppy said...


Your phone number change may not have invited gambling and prostitution, but you lost a special piece of who you were and were slapped with nothing more than a mere number instead. So sad...

ESM, my son,

Thanks for the info. As usual, I have once again proven how very behind-the-times I can be.

I still don't like the exit numbers here...

Bekah said...

Very interesting...I never knew there were places that didn't participate in the numbering. On the interstate, I don't know what I'd do, because I'm freaked out enough by simply being ON it...I need all the extra assurances I can get.

And (I'm sure this will shock you) at the Wal mart I always park in one of two roes (angled parking) so all I have to rember is what direction I was facing when i got out of the car, and i can find my car!

SkyePuppy said...


Most of my driving (especially when I have a job) is on the freeway, so it's like a second home to me. Sort of .

At Target (and Wal-Mart), I'm more like you. I have a preferred row to park in, so I can go straight to my car. It's only when that row is full that I have to deviate from the norm and pay special attention.

Our "angled" parking at the new Wal-Mart is the whole row turned diagonal to the front of the store. The parking spots are still perpendicular to the driving-lane part of the row. When I remember I parked in the row just to the right of the left entry door, then when I come out, there are two or three rows that match that description, and I end up wandering for a while. I'll have to come up with a better way of remembering where I parked when I shop at that Wal-Mart.

WomanHonorThyself said...

hey there skye..its hard not to feel dehumaized in this culture everywhere!

Tsofah said...

We not only have exits numbered in this area....there are mile markers as well.

Maybe we should blame it on starting to give those darn social security numbers to infants at birth?

Are tatoos the next step? I hate needles and I refuse! Too bad infants don't have a say.