I like seeing those old side-of-the-road signs that seem to pop up on empty roads outside small towns like Buckhorn, New Mexico. You’ve seen them: the roadside marquees.
They advertise the last bathroom stop for the next 30 miles or the coldest beer you’ve ever tasted. Their messages are often missing letters. Lights flicker and they wear a coat of dust that gives them a sense of belonging to our picturesque rural roadways.
I like them because they remind me of friendships. The best kind of friendships. The ones full of character and familiarity, and just like that old marquee sign, they aren’t perfect.
Perfect friendships don’t exist, and that’s OK. Like the bright neon signs down the Las Vegas strip, a perfect friendship is somewhat imaginary. It’s there for a weekend or a vacation moment you look back on with wonder.
I prefer the roadside marquee friendship. It might be worn out after a while, and sometimes you can’t read what it’s trying to tell you. The lights are not always on at the same time, and the wiring is wearing old. But that’s true of friendships as well.
Roadside marquee friendships last forever. You know that the sign will always be right there, the same place you last saw it. You’ll see it and smile. The message may not be clear but it will be welcome. That’s a roadside marquee and that’s a true friend.
A roadside marquee friendship will be there far beyond those kinds of relationships you build on newer communication technologies like Facebook and other online platforms.
With Facebook you get a pretty smile, a birthday notice and a work anniversary. You might feel you really know the person, but you don’t. Not like you know the roadside marquee.
You see, with your roadside marquee friend, you want to pay attention. You’re happy to see what he or she has to say. Happy to notice. And you don’t mind that your marquee friend is looking as worn as you are. It makes you feel good that both of you have been down the road and back.
Friendships are not easy things. They aren’t as easy as hitting the like button on your phone, but they are worth the work. I’ve been blessed with a few roadside marquee friends. I don’t see them as much as I’d like to, but when I do, I know what to expect.
So the next time you’re driving down a worn-path road to the middle of nowhere, and you feel like you’re the only car for miles and miles, keep an eye out for that roadside marquee. It will be there. Might look older, with a little more dust and a few hanging letters. But it’s there, waiting for you, just like a true friend.