Like any phrase, “Thank You” comes with all sorts of subtleties and nuances, depending on the situation.
Take for instance, last week. With their grandparents visiting, my children didn't play as much Xbox or watch as much YouTube as they normally do during the summer.
So my wife and I gave an appreciative Thank You to them after their grandparents left. Not that they heard us; they were too busy shooting up aliens on Halo or gawking over a One Direction video (for the 58th time).
A Thank You is way to acknowledge someone who alters his or her behavior when asked to do so politely. And it's also, as in the above example, a subtle message that the temporary alteration of the behavior is no longer expected.
That's what's so unnerving about a Manchester Thank You sign.
It's at the end of a string of signs on upper Beech Street (and also found on upper Maple Street).
They're those witty, neon-green signs that encourage speeders to slow down, with phrases such as “Smile You Could be on Radar” and “Smile Speeding Tickets Ahead.”
The message: Drive through the nice parts of town — past a couple of nursing homes, Wagner Memorial (aka Pretty) Park, and the Currier Museum — and you're asked to drive slowly. In a nice, humorous way, of course.
But after you cross Bridge Street going south? “Thank You.” As in, thanks for driving slowly, now you can let loose. The sign is like a green flag at a NASCAR race.
You don't see many pedestrians where the funny signs are in the North End. (Except at MS Market, the discount cigarette retailer at Sagamore and Maple streets. There, eager customers jump out of cars and put their lives at risk dashing into traffic so they can put their lives at risk as store customers.)
But drive south of Bridge on Beech Street, past the Thank You sign, and you enter the part of town where feet are the prevalent mode of transportation. Moms push baby strollers with energetic, unpredictable youngsters in tow. Older kids work to steady wobbly bicycles. Oblivious teenagers prowl around with their buddies.
They don't deserve the funny signs?
No, no, no. My thinking is all wrong, I'm told by Ed Osborne, the Ward 5 alderman.
Once a driver crosses Bridge Street going south, there are too many lights and too much congestion to speed, he said.
“It's very hard to speed, especially if the (traffic) lights are synchronized from Bridge to Lowell to Hanover,” Osborne said.
About the “Thank You” sign? It's an appreciation, he said, for motorists taking heed of the speed limit.
Osborne is no slouch. In fact, as a veteran alderman and a member of the Traffic and Public Safety Committee, he is the unofficial sign czar of the city. Traffic, he said, is his bag. He advocates for signs across the city, and the snow-emergency strobe lights were his brainchild.
In fact, years ago the city put up the “Smile” and “Meet Our Judges” signs in his ward on upper Lake Avenue. Osborne said the signs work on long straightaways with few lights or stop signs, outright temptations for someone to step on the gas.
But why not on Beech Street, south of Hanover to Valley? That's a 13-block stretch with only two traffic lights and no stop signs. The only traffic signs tell people where they can and can't park. There are a lot of crosswalks, but no traffic signs alerting drivers to crosswalks (as there are north of Bridge).
“I can't light up the city. They think I'm the sign man now,” Osborne said about his fellow aldermen.
And he said the area is congested enough that no one really speeds there. I can understand the logic, but I hate the idea of using pedestrians and cars as a means of reducing speed.
Just not a good sign.
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Mark Hayward may be reached at email@example.com.