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Inside looking out: ‘Signs’ of the times

Published May 31. 2019 08:04PM

Driving down Route 903 with my son from Lake Harmony through Albrightsville to Jim Thorpe, I had my attention turned to the number of signs on the sides of the road that had the names of candidates who had run for Carbon County offices in the primaries held on May 21.

I have to wonder. Who would look at a sign that says, “Vote for John Doe for prothonotary and actually vote for him because he saw the name on a sign? A prothonotary, by the way, is the clerk of the civil division of the Court of Common Pleas. I bet I could ask 20 people on the street what this clerk does and 18 would scratch their heads and the other two might know if they had worked for the county court.

President Harry S. Truman was once quoted as asking, “What the hell is a prothonotary?” He then added that the word was the most impressive sounding political title he had ever heard.

We saw signs for candidates for clerk of courts. That’s someone who works in the criminal division of the Court of Common Pleas. I only know because I Googled it. Other elected positions included the register of wills, the recorder of deeds, tax collector, and the sheriff.

With tongue in cheek, my son asked me if the sheriff wears a badge and carries a six gun like they did in the Old West. The truth is he authorizes criminal procedures at the county level, so I assume he’s packing a pistol minus the star-studded holster that we used to see in the cowboy movies.

Some of the roadway signs had pictures of the candidates, which in my mind, doesn’t help me at the voting booth unless I somehow saw them in the market and asked them about why they’re running for office.

A cluster of 10 or so signs at the corner of 903 and Behrens Road had me recalling a song from 1974 by the Five Man Electrical Band.

“Signs, signs, everywhere a sign, blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind.”

I’m left thinking what difference it makes if the recorder of deeds was a Republican or a Democrat at the time I bought property seven years ago. I’m also puzzled why a tax collector is an elected position. No disrespect to whoever attains the position, but I can’t imagine a debate between tax collector candidates. If the voters must choose this office in regard to their resumes, then to me it would be a posted job opening.

I also wondered about other signs I’ve seen recently. At the 903 Turnpike overpass, a digital sign was posted to inform drivers about ramp closings. With the speed limit at 45 mph while I was approaching the flashing words, I found it impossible to read the entire message of “Ramp closed on May 16 from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.” unless I pulled over. The sign went to black after each posting, too. Then it flashed the date and then it flashed the closing times. I had driven past there on several occasions and I’m still not certain if I ever read the entire message.

There are signs that post warnings in front of beautiful lakes that read, ”NO fishing. NO swimming. NO trespassing.” This makes my twisted mind looking for another sign that says, “Violators Will Be Shot On Sight!”

You’ll never see signs that say, “Trespassers welcomed,” or “Please Swim in Our Private Lake,” and that’s because for a required sum of money paid to a property association, the lake belongs to those who own real estate in the community and pay the usage fees. I wonder who first proclaimed the right to privatize a body of water that was filled on land that was once inhabited by cavemen and dinosaurs. I’ve always thought that the earth beneath our feet and the water in the ground belong to no one.

The state of Pennsylvania requires that a fishing license be purchased to fish private lakes even if the fish are bought and stocked by the community. The state claims to own the springs that fill the lakes. That’s a gotcha!

By the way, you can buy a star in the sky from a company that also claims the right to sell something it doesn’t own. I’m thinking of starting a business selling clouds. Cumulus ones will go for $49.99 and the white cirrus will be a buy one and get one free. How many would you like?

Then we have deer crossing signs. Was someone hired to spy on the deer to see where they like to cross the streets?

I heard a woman call in to a radio show and complain that a deer crossing sign by a highway near her needs to be moved because too many are being killed by drivers there. She requested the sign be moved to a less traveled location so the deer will know to go there now and cross the road safely.

You can’t make this stuff up. Makes me think we need a squirrel crossing sign near me, but not on Route 903. It’s too dangerous there for the furry little rodents. Put the sign on Behrens Road and paint a pedestrian walkway and the squirrels will know they can go there to cross the road safely.

Rich Strack can be reached at

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