Signs of the times
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.