Sometimes opportunities can be found where you least expect them.
For example, motorists entering Carson City from the south -- the ones coming back from a weekend at Lake Tahoe or Wal-Mart -- have been greeted for the last several weeks by a bright yellow billboard addressed to "FELONS."
At the speed I drive and with the amount of traffic now jammed up by the sprouting of traffic signals, I've never quite been able to read the entire sign for fear of rear-ending another vehicle.
It appears to be a warning that felons in possession of firearms may be sent to federal prison.
(Note to whoever is paying for that billboard: In this day of modern advertising, brief slogans usually work best. Writing an entire essay for passing motorists to ponder isn't especially effective.)
I have no idea what the fine print underneath the essay might say. The other day, I considered pulling onto Junction Drive, the side road underneath the billboard, so I could take note of the fine print.
Two reasons stopped me: It would involve making a left turn off Carson Street and another to get back on. I figure I only have so many of these to make in one lifetime, and I didn't want to waste two.
The second reason was that anyone seeing me parked alongside the road taking notes from the billboard would naturally assume I was a felon, possibly carrying a firearm, possibly debating whether I should go ahead and enter Carson City knowing full well the risk I might be sent to federal prison.
For many of you, I realize, the difference in my reputation between felon and newspaper editor may be negligible. The two occupations are not mutually exclusive, and I'm sure there are many fine felons over at the Nevada State Prison who would make excellent newspaper editors. And newspaper editors who, to be sure, deserve to be felons.
But I have never been convicted and, for me, that is a source of some pride.
So I continued into town without knowing the exact wording of the big yellow billboard. Nevertheless, I was inspired.
(I should point out this particular billboard is easily the most inspirational in Carson City. You may recall the same billboard, almost two years ago, carried PETA's fairly obtuse message that "Vegetarians make better lovers." Maybe you don't recall, because you couldn't read that one either. And even if you could, you'd still be trying to figure out what the hell they were talking about.)
It occurred to me there are no similar warnings to felons entering Carson City from either Lyon or Washoe counties. Is this preferential treatment for Douglas County felons? Can felons from Washoe or Lyon not read? Or drive? Or read and drive at the same time? Is PETA somehow behind this whole conspiracy?
Certainly, I thought, if we are going to have a yellow billboard warning felons from Douglas County then it would only be fair to warn those coming from other counties as well. Then I realized the billboard may not be directed at Douglas County felons at all.
You see, positioned as it is, the billboard may well be intended primarily for CALIFORNIA FELONS.
Sure, Californians can slip into Carson City via other routes. Presumably, though, they would be unable to successfully pass through Reno or Dayton without being arrested, were they so presumptuous as to carry firearms.
So it made sense that the billboard was not directed mainly at Douglas County residents -- or, the other chief possibility, Carson City felons who had left town, tried to buy a gun at Wal-Mart and were returning home -- but at out-of-state criminals. The location was probably a compromise, as the next-best spot -- on the wall at Harvey's in Stateline -- was unavailable.
Still, this seemed like a waste of resources. The California-Nevada borders already have checkpoints, manned by government employees, whose main function is to prevent undesirables from entering the state.
On the California side, they ask: "Are you carrying any vegetables?"
On the Nevada side, we could start asking: "Are you a felon carrying any firearms?"
Works for me.
Several other signs around Carson City are interesting, if not quite up to the level of the FELONS sign:
-- At McDonald's they're currently advertising "8 items for $1." If true, at 12 cents apiece that's a good bargain.
-- My favorites often are at the Horseshoe Club. This week, the marquee read "Welcome Glenda & Mike." Can't get much friendlier than that.
-- I checked and the "Future path of the Highway 395 bypass" sign is still there. So are the bridges, although sagebrush is beginning to reclaim the slopes. No sign of the bypass yet, though.
-- Signs for losing candidates, still up 10 days after the election, have to be the saddest.
-- On one of the churches: "God loves you." Thanks. I needed that.
Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal.