A Roadside Sign's Sad Wisdom in Castle Shannon, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

May 15, 2013

This bar's sign, the words an anonymous author's eureka moment, is advertising and humor tailored to a socioeconomic class - the local one. In the tragicomic stereotype of the ideal blue-collar world (the one Pittsburgh believes in as Vikings believed in Valhalla) everyone would spend an entire day drinking, one can per hour.

In this sign's implication number of cans (24) to hours (24) is a winking admiration for genius – evidence of a divine hand or the heroic prescience of an industrialist – that set a standard of twenty four beers to a case. Regardless of whatever or whoever matched the numbers, this ratio is clearly ordained and not coincidental. That two things so fundamental, cans of beer and hours in a day, would share this similarity in amounts is argument enough they belong together.

I know the thought isn't localized only to Pittsburgh. Drinking happens everywhere. Drunks are everywhere. I get that the humor is in the myopia of the worldview, that we know there's more than this but not the author. I see the joke this in the emerging awareness of coincidence – only just now is the author putting the numbers together, and after all this time. But a deeper, sadder truth is in the humor, too: there is no better way to spend your time.

At least not around here, in Pittsburgh. The argument is supported by a quick drive around Castle Shannon. Houses are crumbling, business are boarded up. The future has been bleak for decades. What else could you possibly be doing with your time? You have so much of it. You're probably not working, why not start drinking? Drunken is the way life is meant to be lived.

To those who might not be familiar with the local legal culture:

We don't consider, those of us from the state of Pennsylvania, people from other places don't often see or buy beer by the case. My friends from other places are amazed at the access we have to so much beer. It's not that you can't buy cases in other states; it's that most people I know don't think about buying beer by the case. Most buy one six pack at a time. While Pennsylvanians are limited in where we can buy it, at sanctioned distributors, when we can buy it we can buy it in mass quantities. And that lends us to stockpile thinking like that posted on this.

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