Signs of the Times

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Maybe I just don’t get out often enough. During the <ugh> work year, I maybe focus a little too tightly on my place of business and where I eat lunch. But when summer comes, I “get a life.” Then, I might watch afternoon soaps, or spend some quality time trying to decide whether to go swimming or not.  When I’m at the cottage, I do venture out from time to time. I might even go shopping.

That’s what I did last summer. Fortified only with my wallet, I made my way to town to buy some dog food for my faithful retriever “Spotty.” But it was clear that since the last time I had been to town, something really weird had happened.

When I entered the grocery store, I found a mountain of dry dog food on sale. Just what I was looking for! But on each and every bag (I checked) was printed in large letters……”NO NAME DOG FOOD.”  I called for the manager. “Why,” I asked, “do you only have dog food for dogs without names? My dog has a name. It is ‘Spotty’.” He suggested I try the pet food store down the street, where, he said, “they are used to dealing with people like you.” I was very pleased that he was able to size up my needs so quickly.

But I did just what he suggested. On the way, I discovered that not only the food store had a focus problem. I passed a service station where a large sign out front said, “SALE ON BUG WASH.” I wondered who had the time, or inclination to wash bugs. Besides, I couldn’t remember reading anything about influxes of dirty bugs.

The problems didn’t stop there. In the window of a next-door dry cleaner was a sign that read “REPAIRS DONE ON PREMISES.” I looked but couldn’t see any renovations going on. You can be sure I will not be using a dry cleaner that can’t be honest even about such things as remodeling their shop.

Across the street I saw a car rental agency. Their sign read, “WE OFFER NON SMOKING CARS.” Well I should hope so. If I’m going to lay out fifty bucks a day for a car, I sure don’t want it smoking.

These must be the same guys that I saw offering “AUTOMOTIVE WRECKING.” Sheesh….I can do that well enough myself thank you. The same thing goes for the lawyers whose office I saw. Their sign said, “FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.”  Surely to goodness, everyone knows what their initials are. If they don’t, they can ask their mom. Personally, I think we need to cut out the professionals and start looking after such things ourselves.

Then I saw a shop featuring “CUSTOM FRAMING.” If there are businesses set up just to get innocent people into trouble, maybe I should have a lawyer. But I sure won’t get a lawyer whose specialty is initials.  The framing shop offered “CITY WIDE DELIVERY.” Now why, if I had somebody framed, would I want it delivered all over the city?

Next door was a photographer offering “PROOFS IN ONE HOUR.” Personally, if I wanted a photographer, I’d want proof of his competence right up front.  I saw that he too was in the blaming business. He offered “READY MADE FRAMES.” Imagine. He has package frames just waiting around to lay on somebody.  Maybe I do need a lawyer.

I spotted a medical centre across the street. But I’d never use them. A sign in the window said “DOCTORS ARE ON DUTY.” Now I don’t know exactly what “duty” is, but if all the doctors are on it, I don’t want them getting near me. That could be dangerous. I could tell they had real problems. They also advertised: “FOOT SURGERY IS OUR SPECIALTY.” Evidently the doctors  have so much “duty” in them, they can’t even use their hands.

Nearby a company offered “ELECTRONIC AIR CLEANERS.” I’ve never heard of electronic air, but I was glad to see that somebody was getting right after making sure it was clean.  Because they offered “CASH AND CARRY,” I went in. “I can carry a million dollars worth” says I, “so load me up”.  The guy had such a mean look, I guessed he must have had surgery by the foot doctors on duty.

I carried on past the hotel that advertised “HONEYMOON SUITE WITH JACUZZI,” wondering why anyone would want Mr. or Ms. Jacuzzi along during their honeymoon.

It bordered a drug store where a little sign proclaimed “HOME HEALTH CARE.” Weird, I thought. Drugs for sick houses.  It then said, “PHONE DIRECT.” Now who would that be? They want me to telephone Mr. (or Mrs.?) Direct if I got a sick house? Imagine that conversation. “Hello, is that Mr. Direct? My chimney has got the flue. Can you send someone right over?” The other sign in the window said, “WE HAVE ST. JOHN’S WORT!” Imagine, a contaminated pharmacy. How do they stay in business?

After six blocks still no pet food store. But I was in luck. I saw a shop offering “BEARING SERVICE” and went in. As you’d expect, they had their bearings, and knew where the pet store was. I got great advice, but they didn’t charge me. Where do they make their profit?

I passed by a TV store that offered a “FREE TRIAL.” Naturally I went in. You never know when you might get into trouble and want a free trial (like in Monopoly where you have a “Get Out of Jail Free” card).  Somebody might frame me when I wasn’t looking. But I got out of there just in time, ’cause I saw a sign on the counter that said, “DAY AND WEEK RENTALS.”  Imagine buying a TV from guys who thought they could rent out days and weeks. Would that be like living on borrowed time?

This place was in the same building as an “ACTING SCHOOL.” I passed that one by, needless to say. If I choose a school, then I’m going to a permanent one. Their neighbour was a  business that provided “COMPUTER TRAINING.” That’s something. A business for training computers. To do what: get your computer to “go” on paper?  I could train my own computer to do that, if I had one.  They also said they were “OFFICE ANALYSTS.” Is that shrinks for nutty offices?

(That reminded me of the place I saw last week. “DOOR AND WINDOW OUTLET,” their sign said. I had gone in and said to the guy “Shoot man. I got the outlets. What I need are doors and windows.”  I advise everyone not to patronize this shop because the staff are very rude.)

By this time I was hungry, so I decided to stop at a restaurant. What do I see in the window but “RESERVATIONS RECOMMENDED.” Well, says I, if management  is not sure about the joint’s quality and recommends that you too should have reservations, I will certainly take that advice.  I ate next door.

I finally arrived at the pet food store. But what’s in the window? A sign that says “PROFESSIONAL DOG GROOMING.” Spotty is, as all my neighbours know, strictly an amateur dog. That I was clearly in the wrong place was confirmed when I noted the shop offered “FLEA BATHS.” Now where had I seen something about washing bugs before? I got out of there just in time.

I decided to head for home, and keep Spotty on dog scraps for now. Ah! There’s what I need. A SCRAP YARD!

  [This essay appeared in a 1999 edition of the Journal of the Financial Management Institute of Canada]

David G. Jones B.A., M.A.

Principal – Shibumi Management Canada


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