02:25:11 am on
Friday 20 Sep 2019

Naked Signposts
David Simmonds

You know the old expression, when you find you have lemons, make lemonade. The current state of the signposts at our beloved Wellington, Ontario, beach, reminds of that expression. This leads me to think there might be a solution to a new problem plaguing Wellington County.


Insulting signage.

When a string of No Parking signs went up at the beach, recently, the derision was instantaneous and unanimous. Was the intent to convey to visitors the message they are stupid, unwelcome or both. Was it that we have the budget to add overkill signage?

Wellington County has listened to its critics. Roughly three in four of the signs have come down; the No Parking provision now appears only every few metres. Twenty or so naked signposts remain, looking rather lost and forlorn, aware of their temporal placement. The plan, according to local councillor Mike Harper, is to remove those posts, as well, having gained a fresh appreciation of the need to avoid sending the wrong message and to develop a comprehensive picture of how we want our beach to appear.

Those naked signposts represent a sunk cost to the County. If ripped them out, there’s nothing gained, except bitter experience. Is there not some use we can make of the remaining posts that allows us to claim we have made some lemonade from among the lemons? I have a suggestion to make that would allow us to indulge in a jug of the stuff.

When I lived in Oakville, Ontario, as a teenager, there was a sign beside one of the major downtown bridges that didn’t list the one offence of jumping off the bridge. It prohibited you from spitting, screaming, throwing, climbing, dangling; you name it. The sign acquired more notoriety than did the bridge and the creek below it. Might Wellington County steal a page from the playbook used by Oakville?


Clothing naked signposts.

Suppose we clothe the naked signposts with signs listing all the other things you can’t do at the beach. Start with the easy stuff, such as No Camping, No Littering, No Fires, No Chopping Trees, No Feeding the Beaver, No Using the Lake as a Bathroom, No Playing Hardball and so forth. Then expand the signage to include less obvious prohibitions, such as No Drake Music, No Eating Sand, No Helicopters, No Elephants, No Honky Tonkin, No Bad Vibes, No Gluten Free Food and so forth.

People would line up to use the beach just for the thrill of knowing the by-law police might swoop down on them at any moment to try and catch an infraction in progress. The beach could quickly acquire a reputation as a cool place to hang out. It could be The Forbidden Beach.

Among those in the know, Wellington beach might become as popular as the Sandbanks. People would line up to buy the bumper sticker: I Survived the Forbidden Beach. The prohibitions could change every year or even more frequently, to keep repeat customers coming back. Beach users could offer suggestions as to new things they would like the signs to prohibit.

In fact, the whole of Wellington could get in on the act and style itself, as The Forbidden Village; the place where being miserable is forbidden. Stores could forbid their customers from finding what they want to be out of stock. Bed and Breakfasts could forbid their guests from sleeping badly or having a lousy breakfast. Wineries could forbid their clients from disliking every vintage they taste. You get the idea.

If the idea of The Forbidden Beach doesn’t excite people, perhaps the County could use the naked signposts for other messaging that softens the sting of the still-numerous No Parking signs. For example, The County: We’re So Laid Back We Don t Get Too Uptight About Anything, Including Parking Where You Aren’t Allowed or You Should Have Taken Public Transportation to Get Here So We Wouldn’t Have to Put Up These Darned No Parking Signs In The First Place.


Alternative uses of signposts.

Perhaps the posts might be useful as something other than standards for signs. The beach could host major horseshoe tournaments; players who tend to throw high would find the pitch especially suited to their game. Alternatively, the posts are useful to tether nervous Lake Ontario swimmers who are worried over rough waters sweeping them out into deep waters. Still another use might be to fly the flag of each municipality in Ontario in which Doug Ford is no longer welcome, although the limited quantity may prove to be an insurmountable obstacle.

As I contemplate the many uses of naked signposts, I know I will miss them after they disappear. Time, obviously, for a restorative glass of lemonade. Is that allowed, I wonder?

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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