Soundmen and Street Signs

by Michael Boyink / [email protected]

I used to run sound for a large church. On any given Sunday we’d have two or three guitar players, piano, keyboards, a horn player or two, and three or four singers.

As the soundman, I had two main jobs. Make the music sound good in the main house and make sure each musician could hear what they needed.

OK, three jobs. The sound level on stage couldn’t be louder than the sound level in the main house. 

The challenge was on stage. I’d check with each musician to see if they were happy with their monitor mix.

“I need more of me,” they’d say. Or “I need more drums.” Or “I need more lead vocals.” 

More more more.

It was always more. And more led to too much. The volume level would get out of control. I’d have to crank up the main house volume so the audience didn’t hear the stage mix.

A mentor taught me a trick: “Don’t ask what they need more of. Ask what they need less of.”

Using that approach, I made each musician happy, lowered the overall stage volume, which let me lower the house volume.

Less is often more.

That experience came to mind this week when I heard that the new wayfinding signs were installed in Ava. 

I had driven right past the new sign on Springfield Road and not noticed it.

Why?

More.

The new wayfinding sign is one more sign on an a stretch of road already overloaded with signs.

I went back and drove east on Springfield Road. I started counting after the big Town and County sign. Between that and the roundabout?

17 signs.

Just on the south side of the street.

Highway signs. 

Business signs.

Speed limit signs. 

Pedestrian crossing signs. 

Roundabout signs. 

Yield signs.

Signs dedicating the road to someone’s memory.

And Pizza Hut, with five signs vying for attention.

And those are just the signs targeted to me as a driver on the main road. 

I didn’t count the handicapped parking spot signs, the HomePride Bank sign, or signs for the intersecting streets that are also visible from the road.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the new wayfinding signs. We often looked for them when visiting a new city on our travels.

And the other locations for the new signs are fine – they aren’t in such a crowded stretch.

But the Springfield Road sign location is a poor one. 17 signs in the space of two blocks (drivable in roughly 3 seconds) is information overload for already-distracted drivers. 

Especially leading into an intersection that is well-known for taxing driver abilities.

I hear rumblings that MoDOT may be revisiting the design of the round-about soon. If so, I hope they also take a fresh look at the surrounding signage – and see if, like the musicians, there are signs we need less of.

Otherwise Ava may have to follow the lead of Virginia Beach, VA and add yet another sign to the intersection: