The Editor’s Desk: Can’t you read the sign?

Pop quiz: If a road sign says STREET CLOSED, do you obey it or do what you want?

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind

Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?


Five Man Electrical Band

While travelling down Railway Avenue in Ashcroft last week I came across an active work site at 8th Street. A sign suspended from a sawhorse read “STREET CLOSED”, and beside it was another sign indicating a detour to the left down 8th.

Something reading STREET CLOSED would seem to be pretty unequivocal. The sign completely blocked the right-hand lane; in order to go round it on the right, a driver would have had to pull onto the gravel near the big blue truck at the south end of the Heritage Park and then continue to parallel the road through the site (swerving to miss a works truck parked on the gravel in the process).

So I was somewhat surprised when, as I approached the area, I saw the car ahead of me do precisely this (the car that was behind me also chose this route). These were apparently not anomalies; quite a few vehicles, over the course of the two days of work at the site, chose to disregard the traffic signs and put workers in danger rather than make two or three extra turns and put themselves behind in their day by about 30 seconds.

Quite apart from the potential danger to workers at the site, the situation makes one wonder about the thought processes of the drivers involved. Were they running so late that a 30-second delay was critical? Did they think that the signs didn’t apply to them? Did they think, full stop?

Work crews don’t block off streets and put up signs on a whim. Like the song says, “Can’t you read the sign?” It applies to you too, so please pay attention and do what it says.

A disturbing story out of Britain three weeks ago told of how Mark Field—MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, as well as a Minister of State at the British Foreign Office—dealt with a peaceful protest at a formal dinner he was attending: he grabbed the female protester by the neck, shoved her up against a pillar, then frogmarched her out of the room while others in attendance leapt to their feet to intervene and protect the woman, who was clearly in some distress.

Apologies; I got that slightly wrong. No one leapt to their feet to intervene, or protect the woman. Video footage of the event shows that other attendees either stayed in their seats and looked away in polite disinterest, or stayed in their seats and looked on in polite disinterest. After the woman was marched away by Field, they began to clap. You can view the footage at

It’s hard to say what’s worst: the fact that a peaceful protester was assaulted and manhandled; that no one in the room thought to at least stand up and say “Hold on, old boy, I think you’re rather overdoing it”; or that people present applauded Field’s actions. Field was suspended after the incident, and various pundits wondered what had happened to the man who once said that he was “very proud that we have a tradition in this country of open protest. It is very much an important part of democracy.” I guess he meant that open protest was an important part of democracy until it got in the way of his dinner.

And finally, at his День Победы — I mean Victory Day — sorry, 4th of July — celebration in Washington last week, President Donald Trump said (of a battle that took place in 1775), “Our army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do.”

What’s wrong with that sentence? Answers on a postcard please. It did, however, inspire a tweet that brought a smile to my face: augmenting Paul Revere’s famous warning during the American Revolution, it read “One if by Land; Two if by Sea; Three if by Delta Shuttle from LaGuardia.”

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