Some people in our town want to ban all sidewalk signs – the kind that business owners place outside their doors to advertise.
They’re a blight, tacky, something you’d see in a strip mall, an obstacle course, a safety hazard, complain the letters to the editor of the local paper. They’re illegal, take them down, wrote the editor, agreeing with the nay-saying no-signers.
But are they illegal? I happen to like the signs, so I went online and tried to make sense of dense city ordinances. I didn’t succeed. Whether these A-framed signs that sit near curbs are legal or not in our city is still a mystery to me. I think they must be because they are all still standing several months after the barrage of complaints.
To me the signs add colorful visual interest as I’m walking along. Close to the curb, they’re usually not in the way, unless people jaywalk. Without them, the sidewalks would be bare, bare, bare. Too plain and stark.
Not only are the signs decorative, they convey useful information. We’re open! We’re new! Come on in! Walk-ins welcome! Free parking in back. Even better! Especially when I’m circling the block in my car with 25 other parking spot hunters on my tail.
No Parking signs are helpful in our little community too. The meter readers are relentless and unforgiving and ready to whip out their ticket books if we’re 30 seconds over the 2-hour limit.
I really like the signs with balloons tied to them. Sale today! Two for the price of one! Two whats? It can be two pedicures, two massages, two pairs of shoes, two bed pillows, two beers, or two bottles of wine. Or buy a cup of coffee and get a free bagel. Or sign up for a spinning class and get free CPR. Afterwards, join our Happy Hour! Stuff yourself with free appetizers, from tapas to sushi, and listen to people mumble all night long.
It’s also helpful to know that the local pharmacies, including the one in the grocery store, offer flu shots, that Verizon and AT&T can tempt us with the newest phones and related gizmos, that the hardware store sells an automatic key locator (whatever that is) and that the running club meets at the local workout gym at 8 on Saturday mornings (just so I can avoid them).
In addition to announcing hours and specials, some sidewalk signs try to send funny messages, such as the two-sided one in front of a kitchen design showroom. On one side, a woman on the phone: I told him, “I’m not waiting another year to remodel this kitchen.” On the other side, a man on the phone: So I told her … “If we’re going to fix the kitchen, we should have them do an outdoor bar-b-cue area too.”
Or one of my favorites: “Friends don’t let friends shop at chain stores.”
Yes, if I want bland, I’ll go to the nearest big shopping center. If I want perfect, I’ll go to a town that bans deviation, where everything looks the same. In the meantime, and I hope our sidewalk signs are here for awhile, I’ll enjoy the colorful clutter while I can. Even the moving signs that jumping people hold up and wave around.