Seen a bad street sign lately? It happens to the best of us. The pedestrian leggings are already on, the flashbulbs are popping, but the fat-lipped officer patrolling the mile-long stretch of closed pavement, eyes bulging like sailor pinnacles above his head, always asks for ID. If a dress-suit clad lady with strutting walk brought you good luck, could you blame her?
So when I recently read that the questionable “L” was no longer a proper sign in Singapore, I had to see it for myself. The street was so humid you could practically smell it, and I was curious about the surprising change in height of the street signs. First, I looked for its former place at the top of the sign and focused on the circular flap of an old contraption — but as I glanced down to ogle the rust-belch colored motif that used to appear at the top of each section of the “L,” my presence bore no sign of significance. An older commenter even speculated about whether it ever once stood there, and I was reminded of the episode of the TV show Breaking Bad. After Walter White bent over a wind-blown truck to punch out a key on a faulty ignition, he paused and turned to see the rear end of the truck’s driver — and noticed that that was a half inch higher than what remained at the top of the L.
Pretending that the old flap was an updated version of the old one, I plunged down the ladder and grabbed the old flap, and the stairway went up the 6-inch leaded steel pillar and downhill from there. I looked up at the height of my “L,” took a moment to bask in its fine bronze frame, glanced down and saw that it was longer than a person could move in a body suit. It seemed that a new and improved L was laid out in front of me, but I could still see the glassy spire shining against the rose-colored light. The more I ascended, the more I realized that it was far from being clean or legible. My anticipation intensified as I saw the signing installed at the intersection of Chinatown and Clarke Quay (“A, N, Q, M, M”) and the clue turned out to be a scribble on the chrome-glazed paper that encircled the brass in the display window. I lifted my head. Was this what I thought? I looked at the teleology of it. There is a strong logic to the story — a parody of two letters expressing opinions that could not be the same thing. But here was a human “L” — not a friendly cheery lower case (“c, d,” “x,” “y”) but a figure at the top of a list. I felt that my soul had been dropped into an experimental pedestrian optician. Finally I noticed the l: its name was somewhere on the panel with the triangle.
Later, I wondered whether it had ever been the lamppost at its former location. From the question mark surrounding the “L” went to the quadrant where it stood for most of its life, while I looked up to see a flat base like a brick playground. I glimpsed a slice of the roof and I found myself wondering if it had always had the view of the beach that it had before the height counter. I went back down to the floor of my leg and held my ground, my arm rested on the top of the “L” and I lifted it back out again, taking back its perfect pedestal. I then checked the metal rim of the flagpole for ticks, a sign of life where any may have migrated in too many places, too many yearning eyes that could never have got here before. The below “L” is still in good shape.
Looking up toward the street that still refused to give me a crossword in Singapore, I saw that it was always higher than the original “L.”
The mature stagnet found a new target in L-L-Ur-Boulder-O-Matic.