It’s never a good idea to startle a skunk.
One afternoon years ago when I entered our family garage and turned the key on my father’s 1954 Plymouth Belvedere, a skunk that had snuggled in under the car sprayed, full blast, all the way up inside.
That distinctive rotten-egg and burnt-garlic perfume permeated our car and our conversations for weeks.
The other evening, I was thinking about skunks as I drove near Canatara Park. It was the perfect location, time of year, and hour of the day to see wandering, hungry skunks.
I imagined a family trundling across the road and slowed down to the speed limit, as crabby drivers jammed up behind me, engines revving, prodding me to hustle.
This is the time of year when skunks head out at dusk to search for food and bulk up for their mid-winter dormancy. Just last week, one walked flat-footed across the lawn at sunset. With a black with a white V down its back and white bar between its eyes, it was hungry for wasps and grubs and other garden pests.
Skunks have dreadful eyesight. So, when crossing city streets at twilight they can’t see or survive cars whizzing toward them, even at the posted speed limit.
And, of course, that famous aromatic threat packed under its raised tails is no protection against a pickup truck speeding impatiently home from work.
We have signs all around us in this city. Yellow ones that show children bouncing balls. Signs that indicate School Crossings. And new front lawn signs that simply instruct drivers to Slow Down.
Why not something similar for our skunks. Designated Skunk Zones, with crossing signs in black and white, tail up, tail down, showing them crossing the street in search of food.
I do concede that speed bumps, photo radar and skunk crossing guards would be excessive, but some signs planted in approved places would remind us all to Be Careful.
Barring that, it’s up to individual drivers to remember that skunk patience is jittery at best, and forgiveness is not in their repertoire.
At this time of year we’d all be wise to also check – carefully – for a skunk hiding under the family car before heading out.
Being a skunk doesn’t mean you don’t get hungry, or the sun doesn’t hurt your eyes, or that you’re not important.
Or that you can be trifled with.
Bob Boulton is a Sarnia writer of stories, articles and light verse.