Mar 23, 2011

Zombie Road Signs!

On a dark and stormy December ‘09 night in Austin, Texas, a warning on the side of the highway sent a chilling shockwave of terror across the globe.


As if the unimaginable terror of being stalked down by a zombie wasn’t enough, being stalked down by a Nazi Zombie is taking it to a level I cannot even fathom. It reminds me of a classic example that haunts my dreams from time to time…

Question: What is worse than getting attacked and eaten alive by an 18 foot Great White Shark?
Answer: Getting attacked and eating alive by two 18 foot Great White Sharks.

The outcome is always the same, but given the choice, I would prefer one that doesn’t involve a Nazi or a tag team feeding frenzy consisting of Jaws and a few of his buddies.

Going back to the pandemic in Texas, many questions were raised in regard to how a warning of Nazi Zombies could even show up on such a highly sophisticated road sign contraption. An Austin city official, Sara Hartley (pictured below) explained,

[It was a locked sign, the padlock for it was cut. Signs such as these have a computer inside that is password-protected.] "And so they had to break in and hack into the computer to do it, so they were pretty determined."

So in other words, I could walk up to a road sign with a pair of bolt cutters, break the padlock, guess the computer’s password (AKA “hack”) and type up a message. The entire process could take literally seconds. The password is the tricky part, but I (1) doubt it is complicated and (2) probably is something any disgruntled ex-construction worker/city transportation dude has tattooed somewhere on his or her body. If both of those failed, I could always take a gander at (3)“several online sites that teach people how to break into these construction signs,” as suggested in the article Construction signs warn of zombies.

The Nazi Zombie scare was all fun & games. To my knowledge, no one was mauled by a zombie on that fateful day. Fast forward to last Sunday, March 20th, and a similar warning appeared on the side of another highway. Reports of Tampered road signs warn of zombies, tanks on SC 160
originated from approximately 1,150 miles from the Texas incident. If there were zombies walking around out there, this distance seems like a reasonable amount of territory to cross in a little over a year. I’ll take it. Thankfully, the latest report did not involve any Nazi Zombies, but it did throw in warnings of “Watch for Hunters” and “Be alert for Tanks.”

Anyone outside of the video game world would instantly imagine a reincarnated General George S. Patton cruising down the highway in a Panzer with Robert DeNiro’s character from Deer Hunter and some sort of Boba Fett-zombie strapped to his chest. Not the case here, folks. Hunters and Tanks are kinds of zombies from a kickass video game called Left 4 Dead, which by the way, I highly recommend. It can get pretty damned creepy playing that thing alone in the middle of the night.

Again, many questions come up.

(William Shatner voice) “So… how did… they… do it?”

Good question. Let’s ask the resident construction engineer for the S.C. Department of Transportation, Mr. Ken Wilson. Ken said that,

"It's my understanding that they would need a key to get into the box and a certain code to change the wording.”

Another construction guy, Jason Johnston, positively added that,

[They are still unsure how someone changed the message.] "It wasn’t obvious that someone broke into it. It’s not our board, so we can’t program. We can’t look at the records to see what happened. And we don't know if it was left unlocked.”
That sounds pretty reassuring. If I had to take a guess at how this heist was pulled off, I would say someone probably drove by with their iPhone and “hacked” away at the road sign’s computer faster than that chick from Jurassic Park broke into Dennis Nedry’s computer.

Even more alarming is the fact that

...officials said they didn't contact police about the incident but plan to send someone to reprogram the signs and make sure they aren't tampered with again.

Who cares about the freaking signs?! What about the threat of zombies lurking around? Hypothetically, if there really was a zombie outbreak, and someone drove by and really wanted to warn people about the attack, the city officials would basically pull the plug on the warning and not even have the courtesy to call the cops about the pending Armageddon. Perfect. That is just fantastic.