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Signs of the Times
Since I was on vacation for two weeks and missed posting my weekly columns, I thought I'd post the last missed one today, to get caught up before the new one's out tomorrow. So here it is! It ran last week in a bunch of papers. Hope you enjoy!

As summer winds down, I would like to share with you several things that have perplexed me.

Why is it that when it’s a gorgeous outside, stores and restaurants insist on setting the air conditioning to sub-zero temperatures? We leave the house donning shorts and T-shirts, and yet when we step foot into a mall we need a sweater. Perhaps it’s to lure us into buying fall clothing, but the cold keeps me away—and keeps me from spending much money—in these summer months.

Instead, I spent this summer avoiding malls in three provinces and four states on various roadtrips. And during these car excursions I found something else that confused me: road signs.

In residential areas all over Maine and New Hampshire anyone with a disability is singled out. “Blind Person” and “Deaf Person” signs abounded. I suppose it helps us drivers be more mindful, but it reminds me of those taunting children in middle school laughing at the kid who’s different.

Nevertheless, I understand that these signs, though they may be read suspiciously, are a public good. The “Slow Children at Play” signs, though, seem to take mocking to the extreme. Isn’t that a little insulting of these poor kids? We hear in education circles how we’re not supposed to label children, and yet here the government is, pointing out where “slow” children play.

Perhaps you think I’m misunderstanding the sign. The “Slow” must be a verb! As in: “Slow! Children at Play”. Your interpretation may be plausible, but I know the government would never do something silly like leave out an absolutely essential punctuation mark, thereby completely changing the meaning of their sign. The government is an entity with which we trust our tax dollars, and we know that they care for us ever so well.

As perplexed as I was by the slow children, though, I was even more flabbergasted at Maine’s insistence that we “Handicap Children”. Do we get extra points if we run down kids? Americans must have very different values than we Canadians do. Or perhaps it’s a golf term?

Again, there is another explanation. They may have meant, “HandicapPED Children”, but I doubt it. The government would never print up thousands of signs where they used a verb instead of an adjective, thereby altering their well-meaning sign into something rather malicious. You must have more faith in government than that!

One of the weirdest signs I saw, though, was: “Reduce Speed in Inclement Weather”. I assume they’re telling us that when the weather is bad, you shouldn’t go too fast, but you’d have to be an idiot not to know that. I think we can rule out the idea that the signs were aimed at idiots, though, because idiots would not understand the world “Inclement”. Have you ever used that word in a sentence? And how do you say it, anyway? IN-clement? In-CLE-ment? Who knows?

But the government stuck that word in there, so obviously the sign is not aimed at the intellectually challenged. And it can’t be aimed at smart people, either, because smart people don’t need to be told to slow down. Therefore, it must simply be aimed at themselves. After all, if public servants think we should handicap children and mock kids who don’t learn real good, then perhaps they also need to be reminded to hit the brakes in a snowstorm.

Luckily, those snowstorms are still a few months off. But if you’re missing the winter, head to a mall. Just please be careful not to handicap children on the way.

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At 10:38 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

HaHaHa :)

Good post. I've seen many of those signs and thought the exact same thing.

Thanks for the laugh.


At 9:08 PM , Blogger Lorrie said…

I've always found those signs hilarious. They should've had my mother proofreading them before they went to print. (She's a retired teacher from the "old school" and is a stickler for punctuation, spelling and correct word usage --- I only hope I haven't made too many errors in this!!!)


At 12:28 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Handicap is a noun and a verb.


At 7:40 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Yes, it may be a noun and a verb, but it isn't an ADJECTIVE, which is the point. The sign means Handicapped Children are around, and the only way to say that is to add the -ED and turn it into an adjective. Without the ED it makes no sense.

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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