Saturday, May 19, 2007

Don't Be a Dusthole

That's right readers, don't be a dusthole. For at least the last year or two there have been these billboards all around Las Vegas cautioning drivers not to "be a dusthole". I see one on my commute every day, and sometimes I'm stopped at a red and I get to just stare at it. Here, have a look:

Here's my problem. After living with this billboard in my neighborhood for several years and contemplating it more than once, I have to confess: I STILL HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT IT MEANS. And I'm a guy, not to toot my own horn here, I'm a guy with some experience at breaking down ads and deciphering all the hidden insults. But this billboard has been my kryptonite. This ad is just a wall of incomprehensibility. I *want* to know what it's talking about so I can scoff at its presumptiveness and go drive through a little dust just to show it who's boss. But I can't just drive through some dust, cause, this is Vegas and there's dust everywhere, I drive through dust every day, it accumulates on my windows faster than I can clean it, and - for the love of God what the hell is the point of this billboard!

Am I supposed to swerve out of the way when I see dust? Am I supopsed to avoid dust if I see a pile of it on the median? Am I supposed to judge an oncoming dust storm and steer in the opposite direction? And no, those aren't sarcastic asides, those are my actual theories for what the billboard means. I can't just dismiss this appeal to "steer clear" of dust as the rantings of an insane person, which is what it feels like - because someone actually cared enough about this issue to design a public awareness ad campaign, craft the ads, and pay for billboards all around town. So someone with money clearly cares about my driving habits with regard to dust avoidance, but in all of their planning they forgot the most important ingredient - the ingredient that makes your billboard make sense.

So the plan today, right here with you the reader, is to go on the internet, track down the sponsors of this billboard, and find out finally, for once and all, what steering clear of dust actually means and why the Dusthole, pictured, is such a poor dust-steering-clearing decision maker. So here we go...

Okay, I'm back. And now finally, I do know what steering clear of dust means. But I will say, that was not an easy search. I had to deploy all of my googling prowess to track this info down. I did all kind of searches for "air quality", "Las Vegas", "billboard" and "dusthole" and came up with nada. Actually, surprisingly, all I found were other blogs also expressing confusion over the dusthole.

The breakthrough came when I found this site, which you really need to see for yourself. It didn't solve the mystery, but at least now I had a name for the dusthole face: "Dusty the Dusthole"

Now I renewed my search for the meaning of the billboard, using the name Dusty. And voila. I found this article from the RJ. It's a long article about the successful ad campaign to raise dust awareness. Bafflingly, it almost completely omits any mention of what Dusty is supposed to be teaching us. I ask again: what does "Steer Clear of Dust" mean? In the name of the baby Jesus, please, what does it mean? But then thankfully, we get this money paragraph:

Reid and fellow commissioners credited the success of the dust-control program in part to public awareness through television ads that featured Dusty the Dusthole, a character with a penchant for stirring up dust by driving fast on unpaved roads and speeding across vacant lots.

So that's it. Driving on unpaved, dusty roads or lots stirs up dust that pollutes the air. Okay, now how was I supposed to figure that out from the "Steer Clear of Dust" slogan and a picture of a guy with Down syndrome? Shouldn't it have been "Don't kick up dust." with a picture of a truck... I don't know, kicking up dust?

The good news is, I don't think I've ever taken a shortcut across a vacant lot, so I can finally feel relieved that I'm not a dusthole. It had been weighing on my mind. And Clark County, by virtue of having an indecipherable billboard, actually succeeded in its mission, which was to raise awareness. Consider me aware.

I leave you now with my favorite Las Vegas billboard, located somewhere around Decatur and Spring Mountain, which I think pretty much speaks for itself. Till next time!

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