As I was driving back from Walnut Creek today, I saw that someone had put the words “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL” on one of the freeway overpasses. I couldn’t tell if it was intended for a specific driver or if it was just a general bit of good-will graffiti, so I decided to take it personally. It took a minute for my cynical mind to kick in, to be reminded of the hundreds of “Practice Random Acts of Kindness” bumper stickers that I used to see every day in Marin and Berkeley, how the drivers of the cars were almost always unrepetent asses, and how the sheer repetition of seeing the same pre-printed message on car after car sapped any meaning from it. I also began to suspect that the message was inspired by that Christina Aguilera song.
But before that, I was just struck by the idea that someone would go the trouble of making a sign just to make total strangers feel better about themselves, that kind of completely altruistic carpet-bombing of good will. It was done with yellow tape on the fenced sides of the overpass, in huge, sloppy letters, and with the sun going down behind the hills, the words glowed like neon. Driving over the hill, the first thing you could see were the words glowing as if they’d just popped into your brain, before you could see the bridge or the tape or have any idea how it was done. And then after you’d passed under the bridge and gone on through the tunnel, the words lingered if you closed your eyes: “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.”