KANSAS CITY — Kansas City.
I DROVE INTO MARYLAND south of Baltimore recently and was greeted with the new wave in state welcoming signs:
''Maryland Welcomes You. Please Drive Gently.''
Gently? What is this, I wondered, some sort of Alan Alda, super-sensitive-guy urging? Some ultra-'90s liberated, touchy-feely request?
And in Maryland, of all places?
Could this be the same gentle Maryland in which the war-like Susquehanna tribe of the Iroquois Indian family once put severe and violent pressure on colonists, who, after all, wanted nothing more than to steal their land and obliterate them from the Milky Way galaxy?
Could this be the gentle Maryland that once used indentured servants and brutalized slaves to cultivate its early tobacco crops?
Could this be the gentle Maryland whose booming guns in 1814 turned back British troops advancing on the state after burning government buildings in Washington?
Could this be the gentle Maryland that is home to the U.S. Naval Academy?
Could this be the gentle Maryland that halted the Confederate advance in the Civil War in the atrociously bloody Battle of Antietam?
Could this be the gentle Maryland where Spiro Agnew and other public knaves operated a system of institutionalized graft?
Well, my, my.
This admonition to ''Drive Gently'' represents a repentance of Saulian proportions. And its audacity should be adaptable elsewhere, for surely adverbial image building has great potential for all states.
Simply by using an -ly word, in most cases, states can create an impression of themselves utterly at odds with reality. They can plant seeds in the minds of unsuspecting tourists -- seeds that, because of their attractive fruit, might yield up more tourist dollars.
Let's do our patriotic duty and suggest a few unexpected welcoming signs for some of the states. Each, of course, would begin with ''Welcome to [Wherever]),'' followed by an out-of-character ''Please'' admonition, to wit:
Alabama: ''Speak Articulately.''
California: ''Act Naturally.''
Colorado: ''Drive Flatly.''
Florida: ''Traffic in Drugs Inconspicuously.''
Hawaii: ''Dress Formally.''
Iowa: ''Stay Permanently.''
Kansas: ''Conduct Yourself Interestingly.''
Louisiana: ''Cook Blandly.''
Massachusetts: ''Spend Conservatively.''
Mississippi: ''Discourse Intelligently.''
Missouri: ''Act Gullibly.''
Nevada: ''Gamble Cautiously.''
New York: ''Drive Humbly.''
North Carolina: ''Vote Wisely.''
Rhode Island: ''Think Largely.''
Tennessee: ''Behave Urbanely.''
Texas: ''Speak Modestly.''
Vermont: ''Elocute Loquaciously.''
Washington: ''Live Dryly.''
This idea might even be adaptable to whole countries. Imagine, for instance, how much better we'd all feel if, crossing from Saudi Arabia into Iraq, we were met thus:
from Saudi Arabia into Iraq, we were met thus:
''Iraq Welcomes You. Please Behave Civilly.''