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I see little green men.

Well, frequently they're green. They have been orange, and one was white in a way that makes you think he glows in the dark or reflects back strangely after the sun goes down. Which is probably not something any of us really want to see after a marathon binge-watch of "Stranger Things."

And I'm not even quite sure they're men. Or actual representations of human beings. All I know is they've found their way to the middle of my street and the center of a controversy, and they don't seem to be moving off either any time soon.

Before you ask, no, I don't think aliens have descended on us. If they have, they better watch their speed while motoring through my neighborhood, and many neighborhoods like mine. The little green men are there to see to that.

These little green men are plastic figures designed to catch the eye or impede the progress of motorists who might either need to be reminded they're driving through a neighborhood with children in it or encourage them not to drive through it so quickly. Typically they're placed on a sidewalk or in an driveway, but lately they've been creeping out farther and farther into traffic.

They appear to have become all the rage. And rage, in this case, may very well be an ironic manifestation of the old "double-edged sword," since the pro and con of these things and their presence and placement has become a topic of somewhat heated debate.

On the pro side, placers of the little green guys contend they exist to keep their kids safe, since the children may be playing with friends in the front yard and people have been known to drive in a somewhat distracted and/or overly speedy fashion. And who isn't in favor of safety?

On the con are drivers who, while in favor of keeping children safe, contend it might be a better idea to emphasis good pedestrian habits in the young than to require people to slalom their way home. And, while they might not come right out and say it, no one likes a nag.

As a veteran of the child-rearing game, I'm mostly neutral, and have seen this before. To me, the little green guys are just the latest derivative of those "Baby On Board" stickers we used to have.

The initial idea of those was to alert rescuers to the presence of infants in the vehicle in case an accident left the driver incapacitated. The fact that this seldom, if ever, actually happened was of no consequence. It might, and not having one clearly indicated you didn't love your children.

People tended to buy these stickers before their kids were born. After the bundle of joy actually arrived, they signaled to other drivers that their vehicle contained an overly-emotional, rage-spewing human with questionable hygiene. And, probably, a baby.

The "Baby On Board" deals appear to have given way to stickers bearing the likeness of mythical creatures or science fiction characters. So now, in case of an accident, I guess the police will be looking to rescue Big Foot or an Imperial Storm Trooper from your car.

What those stickers and the little green guys all have in common, at least to me, is they represent a very real and universal aspect of the human condition: completely justified unreasonableness.

Of course people should want to go to whatever lengths they can to keep children safe. But is it really necessary to put a plastic crossing guard in the middle of the road and require everyone to do the equivalent of a snake dance on the street? Particularly when, let's be honest, your kids really are smart enough not to play in traffic and the fact that you put that green thing out there kind of embarrasses them?

And, of course, no one wants to impose on their neighbors or make their trips home more difficult than necessary. But when one of your rear tires actually lifts off the ground on the curve, it might be a good idea to slow down. And those cat videos can definitely wait.

Pro and con. Some right, some wrong. The best of intentions, potentially carried to illogical extremes. All things considered, probably not that hard to believe. But what are the odds we consider all things?

Meanwhile, I drive through my neighborhood as slowly as I can, as carefully as I can. And watch out for the little green men.

Commentary on 08/03/2018

Print Headline: A traffic-calming invasion

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