Muster Point

by AB

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Standing steely erect approximately 150 meters from my work’s main entrance, like a lone soldier on duty, is a sign that reads firmly: MUSTER POINT. I like the sign, despite not knowing its meaning, or purpose. It is steadfast, yet poetic—a paradox of hard and soft. It glows neon yellow and faces a concrete University campus, shouldering a busy four-lane downtown throughway. And, despite all of this, I imagine it often goes unnoticed and/or misread. After all, it took me three years to stop and notice it. Muster… like mustard, mister, and muse, though somehow doubtfully related. I think that the sign is trying to tell me something (yes, a sign that is operating as a sign), or, perhaps, if nothing else, that it should at least come with a few more directives.

Curious of this phrase that I now encounter daily, I look it up. Muster point: a gathering, especially of military troops, for service, inspection, review, or roll call; a place to gather in case of emergency. Its military usage explains my earlier ignorance, and despite its army-based practice, remains a useful metaphor (I’m all for applied metaphors: recall the Lion). If we too are buildings, then we too should have a muster point—a point at which to escape in case of crisis: fires, leeching gas, shattered glass, ceilings and walls caving in (or the emotional equivalents thereof)—a safer, more peaceful refuge in the middle of chaos. Rather than being strictly utilitarian, perhaps this street sign is better re-imagined as a signpost to thinking differently about the safe distance between people, and the muster point within ourselves to which we can always return—relatively unscathed, or at least still breathing. While I am not one to value stiff military procedure, perhaps in the case of the muster point we can make an exception. If we find ourselves in a war zone, put away the gun, dodge the bullets, and muster up the strength to care about our own (emotional) care. After all, signs are there to guide us…

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