One minor source of relief on our traffic-congested streets is the mind games that may ensue when our eyes fix on some interesting text.
It's usually right in front, for which we become a captive viewer. It happened to me again on Friday. Cleveland Street, in peak hour. I'm drumming fingers on the wheel impatiently, as, too, is the driver in the lane beside me. In front there's a monstrous truck, wide enough to stop me seeing beyond it, making me feel wedged in and stuck. In big letters the sign on the back says: "The only thing we leave is a memory".
It's a case of understanding the words but failing to understand the intended meaning. Because I have no idea who "we" refers to and because "leave" can mean any of a thousand things (eg the plane leaves at three; he leaves a widow and two children; four from eight leaves four; he left the others for dead; he leaves me cold; she's on leave without pay; I'll leave you to it), I'm at a loss to create meaning from these words.
It's a good example of how constructing meaning from a message is far from automatic or safely assumed.
And "memory" is such an evocative word, such an abstract noun. You can't go down to the corner shop and buy a "memory", hold it in your hand, look at it, do something with it. It takes you into the realm of the conceptual.
The lights way ahead turn green but rather like the stage directions in Beckett's Waiting for Godot, no one moves.
Congestion - whether it's on the roads, in the sinuses or the arteries - makes movement difficult.
"The only thing we leave is a memory." Is this a promise? Or a threat? Should I be relieved? Or worried? I resolve that the only recourse is to overtake the truck, at the earliest opportunity and without risking life or limb, so as to see what else may be written on it. More words may throw more light, allowing me some closure on the memory statement.
Eventually the opportunity emerges and I take my chance. As I pass alongside the truck, I see more letters and within a moment I can make them out.
The penny drops!
If these chairs could talk what memories would they share - Kirribilli, April 2009