Signs of the times

The Compass - - OPINION -

Few things up­set me. At one time, my skin was thin and sen­si­tive, and the slight­est provo­ca­tion was rea­son enough for keen per­sonal stress and grief. Now, af­ter 30 years in the public eye, my hide is as thick as a rhinoceros. Af­ter all, 30 years of parish min­istry and ed­i­to­rial work have to count for some­thing.

At the same time, a few things still get my dan­der up. Yard sales and flea mar­kets head the list.

Well, not yard sales and flea mar­kets per se. We as a fam­ily have staged a few of our own through the years. They are a great way to get rid of un­wanted things and make a few cents.

My is­sue is with the sig­nage ad­ver­tis­ing yard sales and flea mar­kets; those no­tices which are tacked to util­ity poles in­form­ing the public of the time and place of a yard sale or flea mar­ket. My pet peeve arises from the many such no­tices re­main­ing in place day af­ter day, week af­ter week, month af­ter month and, in some cases, year af­ter year.

Some signs in our towns should never be re­moved. For ex­am­ple, there is the one warn­ing “Dan­ger: High Voltage.” Oth­ers state: “No Fish- ing from Bridge” and “At­ten­tion: Un­der­ground Tele­phone Cable.” Such sig­nage is a ben­e­fi­cial ser­vice to the public and can pre­vent ac­ci­dents and even death.

Early one Satur­day morn­ing, I left home and went hunt­ing for yard sales and flea mar­kets.

I came across a sign, in­scribed in large, black let­ters on a colour­ful back­ground, ad­ver­tis­ing a yard sale. The street and house num­ber were given, along with the date and time.

Reach­ing the house, I saw no sign of a yard sale. Think­ing it might be out back, I rang the door­bell and asked about their yard sale.

I was met by a blank stare, along with the words, “We aren’t hav­ing a yard sale to­day.” Con­fused, I asked, “You’re not?” “No, my son, we’re not.” “But,” I said, “I saw your yard sale sign back on Water Street. Your ad­dress and to­day’s date are on it.”

The home­owner squinted her eyes and wrin­kled her fore­head, then said, with un­der­stand­ing reg­is­ter­ing on her face, “that yard sale was last sum­mer.”

Now, do you un­der­stand my pet peeve? If it wasn’t so sad, it would be funny.

Please al­low me to re­gale you with an­other tale from my re­cent past.

I was clip­ping down Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial High­way. Sud­denly, a sign, at­tached to a speed sign, caught my at­ten­tion. I jammed on my brakes and did a dou­ble take. It was an elec- tion sign, so­lic­it­ing the sup­port of driv­ers for a cer­tain can­di­date in an up­com­ing elec­tion which, by the way, took place some years ago.

My first in­cli­na­tion was to jump out of my car and rip the fading sign from the speed sign. How­ever, ac­cept­ing the id­iom that “dis­cre­tion i s the bet­ter par t of val­our,” I re­strained my­self, fear­ful of be­ing seen “de­fac­ing” a public land­mark.

I’m not a killjoy. I wouldn’t do any­thing to dis­suade fam­i­lies from stag­ing yard sales and flea mar­kets. To the con­trary, I would en­cour­age all such af­fi­ciona­dos to con­tinue to advertise their wares. If I see your sign, I will make a con­sci­en­tious ef­fort to visit you. In­deed, if you have books for sale, I will even take the time to go through them and, in all like­li­hood, buy a few.

But I im­plore you, as one who ap­plauds and par­tic­i­pates in all ef­forts to beau­tify the en­vi­ron­ment, to take a few mo­ments, once your yard sale or flea mar­ket has ended, to drive around town and re­move the no­tices that lit­ter our util­ity poles, es­pe­cially dur­ing the sum­mer and fall.

Re­gard­less of how much time and ef­fort go into cre­at­ing a sign ad­ver­tis­ing your yard sale or flea mar­ket, it will lose its ap­peal over time. It may be glossy and colour­ful when you post it but, if left at­tached to a util­ity pole, it is at the mercy, whims, on­slaught and rav­ages of the nat­u­ral el­e­ments. Over time, wind, rain, snow and other nat­u­ral fac­tors will cause the sign to be­come tat­tered and torn. There’s noth­ing more unattrac­tive than un­sightly no­tices clut­ter­ing our util­ity poles. It’s a type of lit­ter, which can be erad­i­cated with a lit­tle thought and ef­fort. If it’s true, as the proverb says, “Clean­li­ness is next to god­li­ness,” then per­haps this is a good place to be­gin … by clean­ing up our util­ity poles of un­nec­es­sary refuse and garbage.

Cur­mud­geon Bur­ton K. Janes lives in scenic Bay Roberts where, to his ir­ri­ta­tion, he still sees the oc­ca­sional yard sale no­tice from 2008. He can be reached by email at


Nolan Ped­dle (sec­ond from left) of Ques­nel, B.C. is seen stand­ing on the blue­line with mem­bers of the Van­cou­ver Canucks dur­ing the play­ing of the na­tional an­them at a Feb. 15 home game for the NHL club. Ped­dle is the grand­son of Bill and Sylvia Ped­dle of Har­bour Grace, and is the son of Shawn and Ch­eryl Ped­dle. Nolan is seen chat­ting with Ma­son Ray­mond (21), while Dan Hamhuis (2) and David Booth (7) are shown at right. The Canucks fin­ished first dur­ing the 2011-12 reg­u­lar sea­son, but lost in the first round of the play­offs to the Los An­ge­les Kings.

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