I stood at the edge of a cliff. It wasn’t a cartoon cliff, no 90 degree drop into oblivion. It was a sloping grade that trees had proven incapable of grabbing onto, and from my point of view, one step onto that grade would be a terrible tumble to the inevitable drop beyond. When the only world you can see beyond a ledge is hazy and blurry it means it is far away. How far? Dead, that’s how far. Anyway, I wasn’t interested in learning any more about it and so kept us to the part of the path furthest from the cliff.
If my own instincts weren’t enough, the NPS had posted signs along the path. They were 2 colors, yellow and black, and they showed a young man pitching over the realistic, gradient cliff, arms mid-flail and pebbles spraying out from under his feet.
I had not encountered any real statistics but I knew this for sure – at least two people had pitched over that cliff in the last 20 years. Emily asked how I knew.
1) There was a sign. Signs don’t go up until something goes wrong.
2) That sign looked relatively new, but the metal post holding it showed the kind of wear and tear that only two decades of unchecked oxidization could do to metal.
“Why two though?”
3) At some point they added a separate sign just below the triangle signs, yellow rectangles with black writing, and they all said, “DO NOT CROSS THIS SIGN – STEEP DROP!”
Clearly the rectangular signs were added when some moron either didn’t understand the boy in mid-flail on the triangle or took issue with being told not to do something. That wasn’t a real critique of who the second person was because if jumper #2 was a moron a worded sign wouldn’t do him any good, and if he had issues with authority, doubling the signage would only make him more likely to pitch. So it was probably a nice young boy or girl.
Later, I chuckled to myself as we left that area and moved on to somewhere far less cliff-y. Emily asked what was so funny even though I had tried to keep the joke to myself. So I said, I know what the next sign is going to say – “Whatever. Do what you want.”
It’s a good thing you don’t work for the Park Service.