On Tuesday I drove from Columbus to Pittsburgh. As I crossed the state line between West Virginia and Pennsylvania, I noticed that Pennsylvania had a new sign welcoming motorists. It had “Pennsylvania” written in a kind of kicky script, with the lowercase slogan: “pursue your happiness.”
Pennsylvania used to have a more sober sign saying that Pennsylvania welcomes you and referring to the Keystone State as the “State of Independence.” Now Pennsylvania has taken a decidedly different approach. Before, it was content to simply be known as the “State of Independence,” referring to its historical status as home to the Continental Congress that adopted the Declaration of Independence Now Pennsylvania has lifted a line from the Declaration’s reference to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and issued a directive that motorists must “pursue your happiness” there.
With the use of the kicky new script Pennsylvania and slogan, it’s almost as if Pennsylvania is trying to use road signs — road signs, of all things — to project a cooler, more youthful image. No doubt the new sign was the product of a long, costly, consultant-filled campaign to pick a new look and slogan . . . and this is what they got.
Who knows? Maybe the signs will work, and every driver crossing into Pennsylvania will resolve to change their ways and relentlessly pursue happiness with every fiber of their being for so long as they are in the state. The Pennsylvania sign really puts a lot of pressure on the driver, when you think about it. If a visitor would just like to get to their hotel, get a quick bite, and then crash, which is what I did, they’re not exactly living up to the command on the road sign, are they?
I suppose it’s tough coming up with road signs welcoming drivers to a new state. We’re long past the straightforward “Welcome to Ohio” days. Now, everybody’s got to have a slogan. When I drove back to Columbus last night, I checked out Ohio’s welcome sign at the end of the bridge spanning the Ohio River, and it says “Welcome to Ohio. So much to discover!” It’s pretty bland and forgettable, I guess, but at least it’s not instructing me on how to live my life.