Do you know what a VMS is? No? Well, I’ll tell you.
It’s a Variable Message Sign. In other words, those electronic message signs on motorway gantries that give motorists up-to-date traffic information.
I was approaching one in almost white-out blizzard conditions recently and could hardly make out what it said through the swirling snowstorm. Only when almost underneath it was I able to read: “Caution. Heavy Snow”
And it got me thinking. Would it be possible to hack into the system and leave your own messages?
I asked some of my friends what message they would put up there, and I have to tell you there were some belters. Suggestions included “Remember To Buy Milk And Bread” and “He’s Behind You! :o”.
I thought that “Look Up!” was pretty good, too.
Other contributors offered such gems as: “There’s Someone In Your Boot”, “You’re Going The Wrong Way” and “Zombie Area”.
Another favourite was “Sign Out Of Order”.
Wouldn’t it be great if instead of the usual patronising, pointless messages – about checking your fuel, tiredness and not to take drugs – the person who types the messages at Motorway Command Centre decided to get creative. Or drunk.
The operator could flash up things like: “Ignore This Message” or “Aircraft On Hard Shoulder Ahead”.
If his keyboard has punctuation marks he could even flash ” (.)(.) “. Think about it.
Motorway driving would become so much more fun! Me? If I could hijack one of these VMS thingys on the M8 I’d type in “Whitburn Closed. Plague”.
However, my absolute favourite, suggested by one particularly warped mind, was the message “”REMEMBER: UK SWITCHES TO DRIVING ON RIGHT AT NOON TOMORROW. £400 NON-COMPLIANCE PENALTY – HIGHWAYS AGENCY.”
Come to think of it, maybe the Highways Agency should employ this contributor to come up with some new slogans.
Give control of the motorway gantry messages to those who have a sense of humour and imagination, I say.