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GUEST COLUMN: Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

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By Bob Boulton

Bob Boulton

The first sign I consciously noticed on my first drive around on a recent warm day was the one at the Bluewater Anglers down by the river announcing the 47th Annual Salmon Derby.

It’s sign season again in Sarnia. There are, of course, nature’s own signs; Mr. and Mrs. Duck returned once again to our neighbour’s lawn. Tulips flowered, rabbits snacked on their leaves. And endless waves of Canada Geese honked their bossy way across busy Sarnia streets.

And there are actual printed signs, posters and advertisements reporting on and promoting this and that. Every year, without fail, there they are. Golf clubs, one proclaims, the highest quality at clearance prices but only on certain dates. I don’t golf, but I was tempted to buy a set. Other signs crowd our view — houses for sale, road construction, lanes closed, arts and crafts shows, music festivals. And some years, like this one, ‘Go Sting Go’.

This is all very well. But the signs I want to focus on – alert us to, warn us about – are the Yard Sale signs that pop up every year, hither and yon, all over Sarnia. Some with exclamation points. Yard Sale!

I will admit there is a certain handmade charm to them. When we witness friendly notices in familiar formats year after year, it can feel strong and good and right. The way we do things around here.

There is, though, darker aspects tied to the Yard Sale sign design we are used to — dangerous driving, reduced good feeling, and loss of financial opportunity. Luckily, the situation is easy to fix.

Picture this. We are driving along when we see a Yard Sale sign. “Oh, Ooo,” we think. Then what? There seems to be an address — maybe, probably — in smaller letters near the sign’s bottom. All very well if we’re walking. But if we’re driving, what do we do? Squint, strain our necks, drive into a tree? Keep headed straight or make a left turn, or maybe a right turn, maybe at the next street? Or the street after? Or just drive on past thinking, “It probably wasn’t any good anyway?”

I think, next year let’s use arrows instead – big fat ones – one on each Yard Sale sign posted along the way, pointing straight ahead, left or right.

Unless there are municipal anti-balloon laws (my lawyer acquaintance will study that out) we could tie a floating balloon to each sign. A little extra panache. Danger eliminated, bargains realized, community feeling reinforced. Clearer, less confusing signs.

Take the Salmon Derby sign for instance. For a moment, I did think it was promoting a new variety of felt hats for fish.

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