How roads shaped my life

A few months ago I mused at how there are many people who like trains (anoraks), roads (odologists), cars (petrol-heads) and even buses (just "bus fans", it seems like). Soon I will write another article about how these compare in general, but in this entry I want to discuss how I end up taking some properties of all of these, and how in general, much of my outside interests lie in the roads.

However, as should be clear after these little stories, I think it should be clear that these also tie into my other interests with regard to language and notation. So as it turns out, a lot of things do end up going there.

A few stories

Some of my earliest memories I have with regard to going outside is how the roads are full of signs. They're brightly coloured, simple to read, and they have meaning! And you can learn those meanings if you read a book or just observe what the things are doing. I happen to actually got that book and I used it to make my own signs.

Of course, it's not just the signs that do this. Everyone knows that cars exist, and they are essentially designed to appeal to human recognition and understanding, so being human, it worked on me. Later on, I would realise that essentially a car is a funny-shaped horse that come in many colours and has a face in front that, again, is basically pre-programmed to appeal to humans. Also you can collect them and I have, in spades.

But it's not just cars, obviously, because there's also buses, and they are almost always the same, except they have numbers written on them that show where they go, and indeed, just like signs, you can learn what all the numbers mean and where they go to. What's more, the place names themselves are made up of words that you know about, and you can discover these places too, on a map specifically (a paper map, because the Internet was not popular at the time and offline maps did not work so well).

Writing it all down

The important thing about noticing such things is that you can later record these experiences by writing marks on paper, or later, putting characters in a computer file somewhere.

The most direct consequence of this is that I can look at this later, but in actuality that rarely happens. But rather, it adds some knowledge that is not directly useful or used, but comes in handy in a number of other ways:

This correspondence of what was written and the things in the real world is something that has ultimately made a lasting mark in how I think, and from then on it's a simple step to think about notation systems in general, even if I don't know it at the time until I thought about it now.

🗼 gemini://