The Signmaker Sends A Message

After taking a hiatus of sorts, the Third Street Secret Signmaker is back with another positive message — a positive message that I am sure everyone particularly appreciates during this weird period. I don’t know whether the message is specific to dealing with coronavirus issues, or is intended to have a more general thrust, but I’m going to read it as directed at COVID-19. And I agree with it, too.

We are enough to deal with this issue — and I think we’re starting to see that. Kish went to the grocery store today and there was no chaos or panic buying. Indeed, there was even toilet paper and milk in stock. People were polite, friendly, and helpful to each other.

I think people are starting to calm down and pull together, and when that happens there is nothing we can’t do.

It’s news when people engage in panic-buying, and not news when the panic stops and sanity returns. The Secret Signmaker might suggest that we take a deep breath, trust our instincts, and realize we can handle this. We really are enough, if we just act like it.

Stuart Smalley Sign

Our anonymous Third Street Bridge sign artist has struck again.  When I walked by yesterday morning, I saw that the latest hand-lettered sign channels an inner Stuart Smalley, the fictional character played by Al Franken on Saturday Night Live years ago.  You may recall that the mild-mannered, sweater-wearing Stuart gave a Daily Affirmation with a positive message that always concluded:  “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”

I’d say that “You are worthy” falls squarely into the Stuart Smalley mindset.  (Those of us who don’t share Stuart Smalley’s hopeful and constructive world view might ask, in response, “Worthy of what?”  But never mind that.)

It’s nice to know that some unknown person cares enough about the well-being of their fellow Columbusites to create inspirational messages to help us feel good about ourselves and spur us forward on our days.  I’m looking forward to the next sign that helps to put a spring in my step on the way to work.

Keep Going

This sizable, hand-lettered sign appeared yesterday on the Third Street bridge that links German Village to downtown Columbus.  At first I thought the sign might be referring to the typically snarled traffic on the bridge — because bad traffic sure can seem like hell — then figured it was just some general encouragement for anybody who might be facing a tough patch in their lives.  Since I was heading into work bright and early on a beautiful Sunday morning, the sign had some resonance for me.

What would motivate someone to create a sign like that, and post it on a fence on a public thoroughfare?  I can only guess, but I thought it was nice to know that somebody cared enough about their fellow humans to fashion and display a generally applicable message that might give complete strangers a boost.

The quote on the sign is often attributed to Winston Churchill, but there’s serious question about whether he ever said it.  Regardless of its source, it’s a useful thought to keep in mind when the super-busy or difficult times roll around.  I was grateful to the anonymous sign creator as I walked on to work.

Pity The Poor Apostrophe

Is any punctuation mark more misused than the poor apostrophe?  How often do you see a sign, like this one in downtown Columbus, where an apostrophe has been weirdly inserted for some mysterious reason, causing inevitable confusion?  In this case, are multiple condos for lease, or is the sign supposed to communicate a contraction of “condo is for lease”?  And don’t get me started on whether there’s a person named “Condo” involved in some fashion and there is supposed to be any possessive element to what is being conveyed.

It’s amazing how many commercial signs have apostrophe errors.  If you are going to put up a big sign about something for sale, wouldn’t you also invest in a proofreader?

Pattern-Challenged

Some people are good at seeing patterns. I’m not. In fact, I stink at it. I never could find the hidden pictures in the Highlights for Children magazines in the dentist’s waiting room, and I don’t really see either the young woman or the old crone, or the vace and two faces, either.

So when I passed this sign on a walk through downtown Boise it took me a while to figure out that it was supposed to reflect a ram. An apparently very sad, gloomy ram, but a ram nevertheless.

Why would anyone want a gloomy ram as their business logo? Beats me! But it you did, why not just have a picture of the ram that even pattern-challenged people like me can recognize?

Handy Signage

For months, they’ve been refurbishing Pearl Alley, which runs between, and parallel to, Broad Street and Gay Street in downtown Columbus.  The goal is to spiff it up for the farmers’ market and other events that often are held there.  The alley has been pretty torn up as they’ve put in new light fixtures and probably made some less visible modifications, but it looks like they’re finally done — with work capped by this new sign at the Third Street entrance to the alley that I noticed for the first time on my walk home tonight.

It’s kind of a weird sign, but at least it’s got some symbolism going for it.  The hand is extending what appears to be a giant pearl — get it? — and the tattoo on the bicep of the arm reads “Lynn,” which just happens to be the name of the alley that intersects Pearl Alley halfway between High Street and Third Street.  Pretty clever!

The Pearl Alley project was a pain for those of us working in the neighborhood, but I’m glad they did it.  Pearl Alley is used frequently, and if you want to encourage people to come downtown and even move downtown, nice urban spaces have to be part of the attraction.  The Pearl Alley project has been another step in the process.

Hand Signal

I was walking down Parsons Avenue this morning, heading toward the Ace Hardware store, when I noticed this sign. It is a memorable one, with a seriously creepy element to it, too.  No one wants to look at a disembodied hand, really — but It harkens back to the ’60s, when many  signs featured folk art elements that sought to make the business memorable.  In those days it wasn’t unusual to see fiberglass cowboys, spinning globes, and neon martini glasses as you drove down Main Street.

Of course, the sign reminded me of Thing from The Addams Family.  As I took the picture I half expected Lurch to show up and intone, in that impossibly deep bass voice:  “You rang?”

Political Statement

This sign appeared in downtown Columbus a few days ago.  At first I thought it was there for the Columbus Marathon, but it’s been saying “Blah Blah Blah” for days now — and, as the photo above shows, it’s positioned with the Ohio Statehouse in the background.

Could the sign be a political statement?  Hmmm . . . I wonder.

Sobering Sign


Montana is bear country, with a hardy population of grizzlies and black bears roaming through the wilderness.  Signs at trail heads remind you of the risk that you might encounter a bear.  The risk was made manifest a few days before we arrived, when an experienced outdoorsman on a mountain bike literally ran headlong into a grizzly after turning a corner on a trail and was fatally mauled.

We don’t want to mess with bears, so we’ve stayed on the popular trails, tried to make a lot of noise to warn the bears away, and kept our eyes open.  So far, we’ve had two bear sightings, but no direct interaction — fortunately.

Old-School Sign

  
Every morning I walk past the Columbus Dispatch building on Third, and every night I see it again as I walk home from work.  I like the news crawl, which gives me a taste of the latest developments in the world, but I especially like the neon sign that sits atop the building.  It’s old school, with its delicate steel girder support structure and olde English script, and it’s been there, I think, since I first came to Columbus in 1971.  Along with the Statehouse, the Ohio Theater and the LeVeque tower, it’s one of the few unchanged staples of the downtown area.

Unflattering Sign

IMG_0428Recently I was on the Otterbein University campus and had reason to visit the facilities, where I was struck by this sign posted on the mirror.  It made me wonder:  What kind of kids are going to Otterbein these days that they would come into the bathroom needing to wash off scum?  I’m all in favor of rhyming, but it’s not exactly the kind of message that makes you want to sit on, or otherwise touch, any surfaces on the Otterbein campus.

Fair Warning

On a doorway on a street in Schumacher Place, a resident has given vent to his evident frustrations while at the same time staying true to the great American tradition of giving fair warning to potential transgressors.

IMG_6875For this homeowner, a simply “no soliciting” sign is simply not good enough.  Instead, the sign states, in all caps and with admirable specificity:

PLEASE, DO NOT KNOCK ON THIS DOOR REGARDING ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

  • SIGNING PETITIONS
  • CONSULTATIONS REGARDING RELIGION, POLITICS, ANY OTHER SUBJECT
  • SOLICITATIONS
  • SNOW REMOVAL

It’s not hard to imagine the back story.  On a busy winter day, and in rapid-fire fashion, the homeowner was repeatedly interrupted by knocks from a solicitor for a ballot petition drive, neatly dressed Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons hoping to save a soul, a fervent Ron Paul advocate, a band booster seeking contributions for much-needed new uniforms, a spunky Girl Scout selling cookies, and a series of enterprising kids looking to make a few bucks shoveling the steps and sidewalk.  Finally, when the last snow removal offer was greeted with a muttered epithet, a curt “No!” and a slammed door, the owner had had enough — and this sign resulted.

Do you think the sign works?

Weird Signage

IMG_2257Here’s another weird sign for you, found in the back seat of a New Orleans taxicab.  Consider the notice at the bottom of the sign.  Is it really necessary?  Why would anyone think that the killing of a taxicab driver might not be a first-degree murder in the state of Louisiana?   I know Louisiana is different, but do visitors there really think they can knock off cab drivers with impunity?  It makes you wonder:  are there similar signs in buses and on streetcars?

Or perhaps the people who came up with the list of the 14 things to which all Louisiana taxi passengers are entitled realized that most cabs will fall short — A “noise-free environment”?  A driver who obeys all traffic laws?  A driver who is “neat” and “well-groomed”?  Seriously? — and wanted to make sure that people didn’t take the vindication of their rights into their own hands.