By on March 27, 2014


6:30 P.M. on a Sunday evening… and three more vehicles just pulled up to my car lot.

You may think that’s a good thing, and it would be if people didn’t park all over the place.

One person parks in one direction. The guy coming from the west parks right in front of that guy, and so forth. This happens in infinite combination until the process of getting people in an out becomes a personal pantomime of moving and motioning cars. At certain times of the day my work becomes comparable to the late Marcel Marceau.

I knew I had to do something about it. However, I didn’t expect that something to become the enabler of my 11 year old son’s criminal history.

The day started innocently enough. Every Sunday afternoon, my family and I will always do three things.

We eat plenty of samples while shopping for our groceries.

We take long walks with the dogs.

And finally, we do something semi-athletic.

It can be throwing around a frisbee. Shooting hoops. Or on this particular afternoon, playing around with a slightly deflated football which is easier for young kids to throw and hold.

This is the weekly low-cost version of our family’s very own preventative health care plan. This time we drove off in a 1983 Mercedes 300D, and headed to a nice parking spot in the periphery of Deliverance country. A small town. No nearby shops.

You would think that the place would only host a few local biking diehards and that rare Georgia family willing to do an outdoor activity.

Well, the park was completely packed to the gills. Everyone and their dog was out either walking or riding bikes. Just as the 70’s era brought out the fitness craze in the West Coast, the 70’s temperatures resulted in a turnout of outdoor enthusiasts that was more like California and less like… well… Georgia.

So we got out and I did the football thing with my son. A game of catch. Some basic football plays. I threw, he ran. He threw, I jogged. The world was sunny and beautiful.

After about 45 minutes of this we decided to take a break and get some water. This is when the world started to become complicated.

The first water fountain we went to was broken. No water. No chance. So we started walking down the trail to find another one.



Now when I say trail, I really mean a bicyclist’s paradise. The Silver Comet Trail is one of the few things done right in my neck of the woods. Smooth flat ground. Plenty of shade. Everyone follows the rules, and the scenery changes enough to make your car-free ride interesting whether you go north or south.

However if you’re a walker, like the two of us, every minute or so a small fleet of bikes is going to go right past you. After a while you start hearing, “On the left!” so much that you think everyone is trying to pinpoint your personal politics. So after a mile of walking and finding yet another water fountain that didn’t work, we decided to go on an actual dirt trail that was parallel to the Silver Comet.

This area turned out to be a local dumping ground. Every few hundred feet there were some old couches, a kid’s play set, and an endless onslaught of empty barrels.

Then we found this…


Now when we found this sign, it was encrusted in a nice sized mud hill with about a third of it submerged in the Georgia clay. Stop symbol. Arrow. No words. It resembled the perfect illiterate version of the words, “Please Stop Here!” So naturally, we kicked off the remaining mud, lifted it out, and put it in the back of the old Benz.

It fit perfectly. After finding finding a working water fountain near the fire station, we went off to the nearby Home Depot to straighten out that little bottom arrow portion.

We may as well have been pissing in the wind. If the nearby outdoor places were packed, the Home Depot was swarmed. After about 10 minutes of finding nobody, I took it upon myself to use a nearby clamp to get the bottom portion straightened out a bit. After a few Herculean tight turns, the sign was a bit more straight, but not much.

So the two of us went off to the lot and that’s where the proverbial dim bulb went off in my big head, “Why don’t you use the car to flatten that portion of the sign out?” So that’s what we did. My son kept his future Eagle Scout eyes glued to the lower portion of the sign as I positioned the rear right tire of the Mercedes just so on the flat ground. The first try was a little off. The second try… perfect.

I was planning on letting the thing set overnight and then coming back this afternoon when, lo and behold, a large Latino family came by wanting to test drive some minivans. Interest in minivans in north Georgia is about akin to interest in the New York Mets in the same locale. I had three of them sitting at my lot since late 2013. So naturally, I gave them all the time they needed.

15 minutes turned into 30 minutes, which eventually turned into an hour’s worth of combined testing on all three vehicles. They asked questions in English, I answered in Spanish, and pretty soon the combined Spanglish resulted in a nice late afternoon conversation. It turned out they had bought a minivan from me three years ago, and although I didn’t remember them, I did remember the vehicle because when it comes to used minivans these days, nobody willingly buys the damn things anymore.

My son came up to me and reminded me about the sign, and I asked them for a bit of help. So we used some leftover wire and hung the thing up.


No worries. All was good until I came home and shared my recent find on Facebook.

One Guy – “That’s government property!”

Me – “That’s abandoned government property…”

Some Guy Named Frank – “Let me tell you about the time when I used a traffic sign like that to hide some rust and a few joints in an old MG. I nearly got sentenced to five years in prison for said deeds!”

One Other Guy Not Named Frank – “Screw the sign… tell me about the 300D.”

Yet Another Guy – “Abandoned or not, it’s still government property. You don’t know who abandoned it. Basically, it could be possession of stolen property.”

Me – “Given that the government sells these things as scrap metal to the general public, I am not too concerned about it.”

Fellow Writer – “… and a mere 24 hours later, he found himself in Guantanamo Bay, rocking the electric waterboard.

“Where is our Steven?” asked the editors of TTAC, Yahoo and R&T, “for he owes us many a story”.

“There never was a Steven”, said the man from the Georgia Dept of Highway Signs and Counterterrorism, as he squared his mirrored Raybans and gestured toward the ceiling with his Glock. “Ya feel me?”


The ex-urbs of the Atlanta happened to have been neutron bombed during the sub-prime crisis. So to be blunt, a lot of signs, poles and concrete sewer fittings are still out there at this point. But did I make a mistake? Will recycling a piece of metal for a useful purpose land me into Georgia’s  version of Sing-Sing prison?

I would be willing to take the risk… if it weren’t for the fact that most of my customers are still ignoring the sign. My next plan is to buy up a line of deer heads and put them up on the fence with the words, “Park Here Deers!”

Any other ideas?


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37 Comments on “Hammer Time: Portrait Of A Misdemeanor...”

  • avatar

    A Hammer Time bonus article? I know I saw some snow outside but I didn’t know it was Christmas again.

  • avatar

    Yes! One percent discount for parking in customers only, spots.

    My step dad, on occasion, borrowed my cars.

    One day the sun was out and I grabbed my Hot Rod 57′ VW convertible, put the top down and headed to park. I didn’t come to a full stop at stop sign and got pulled over. In the back seat of the VW was a couple of hand held ‘Stop & Go’ signs that my dad had left in the car, he was a state highway engineer and was returning them to the office from a bridge job, but forgot them in my car. The officer decided I had illegal acquired them and threatened me with arrest before confiscating them. Dad had to go down and ‘reacquire’ them. I got tickets for a soft brake pedal, a malfunctioning signal light, and loud exhaust.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    If you get arrested,do the American thing,Find out who told on you ,then go to their home and empty your glock into the front door. A lot of these signs are made everyday. Many hundreds of thousands possibly. Look on the back of it,does it say property of the US government ? Could they ever prove it was stolen? (unless they read this of course) there is no way anyone could prove it was stolen and besides it hasn’t left the continental USA has it? I mean,that it’s still in the US so the government still has access to it. …or something.

    As a fellow 300D driver ,I can understand your need to recycle stuff,stuff you have paid for indirectly with taxes. ha ha

  • avatar
    Stuck in DC traffic

    You need parking lot lines. Traffic control theory relies on signage and pavement markings as it’s two most often used methods to communicate traffic control and movement. Throw down some lines down; 9′ wide and 18′ deep. Add a parking stop, or paint them on the ground if you don’t want a concrete or wood lump on your lot. Finally add a sign saying park here, make is bilingual and make sure it looks official by putting it on it’s own post with stenciled or printed letters, not hand written. People park where ever they want now because they have no direction. The US system of marking has trained drivers here what to do, without marks they are lost.

    If it still is a free for all after that… add direction arrows to the pavement. They should clearly mark egress and ingress to the lot and have them cycle by your parking area. Also at that time add a ‘enter’,’exit’ sign. Best example is a fast food parking lot with a drive through.

    Good luck, I spent a very boring year designing countless 7-11 lots with parking, drainage and gas pumps. I studied a lot of specs, code and regulation to learn people will do what they want no matter what you do to direct them. But maybe you can cut down 80-90% of your problem (maybe I give people too much credit and that number should be lower)

    • 0 avatar

      If people don’t know where to park there is a lot design and signage/direction problem. A little striping paint would go a long way. Give people directions and usually they follow them; that’s why most parking lots have striping and curbs.

    • 0 avatar

      Since you’re stick in DC traffic, riddle me (Jersey transplant to the capitol wasteland)this. Why does VDoT refuse to clearly mark lane movements during construction? Specifically on the Washington Blvd and Rt. 50 overpass reconstructions? It’s like they’re trying to force accidents or something.

      • 0 avatar
        Stuck in DC traffic

        I started my civil engineering career as a roadway designer in PA working on Penndot and PA turnpike projects. It was hammered into my head traffic control plans are the key to the project getting accepted.

        I drive in this area in horror on how poor they execute road construction. My wife is sick of me lecturing in the car how they need to stripe more, add traffic calming devices and Jersey barriers.

        Maybe they are trying to lower the population in the area? But that makes no sense as they need the tax income. maybe someone for got to bribe the governor.

  • avatar

    In the later 90’s I was working at a Jeep Dealer in the DC area. Customer Satisfaction (CSI)scores were huge with Chrysler. If you sold someone a car they would be mailed a questioner about the experience. Anything less than a perfect score was a ding against the dealership. Scores would effect allocation of cars.
    This dealer was in a urban area on a lot from the 1950s so space was at a premium and there weren’t many parking spaces. One of the questions on the CSI survey was, “Was there ample customer parking”. Seldom was that question answered positively. So management had signs made that read “Ample customer parking” and posted them throughout the lot. When you sold a car you had to take the customer on a tour of the facilities (another question)and we would point out the signs. Scores went up dramatically.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s a Chrysler dealer north of Toronto with the same signs – I always wondered what that was about.

    • 0 avatar

      Were many customers resistive to having their time spent after they purchased on a facilities tour?

      • 0 avatar

        Most were fine with it. It was around 94, so it was probably the first time they had experienced any attempt by a dealership to be customer oriented. Tour mostly consisted of where the service department was, something that Jeep owners of the mid 90s would really need. Only took 10 minutes.

  • avatar

    I found a “Wrong Way” sign on the side of the road from what I assume was a drunken mishap. It was destiny, I assure you, as my favorite band (the one tattooed across my back) is Sublime, and one of my favorite songs?

    Wrong Way.

    It now hangs in my garage between a Sublime poster and poster full of quotes from famous people about drinking.

    As far as getting people to park in the right place…good luck with that, unless you’re prepared to hire an attractive female parking attendant.

    • 0 avatar

      “She’ll give you all that she got to give, but I’m gonna make it hard to live. Big salty tears rollin’ down to her chin, and it smears up her makeup I never wanted…”

      harshciygar- have you ever seen/heard the Sublime tribute band Badfish? They do an excellent job. I just saw them perform last year at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA and from the looks of their website, it seems they do quite well for themselves.

  • avatar

    What is it about customers and parking? Inatention or they just don’t give a damn? We have customer parking out front, signed and lined but customers block the service drive, park within the new and pre-owned lines (sometimes dinging cars)and generally park wherever and in whatever manner they damn well please. Now I work at a high-line dealership and there is a bit of the “douchebag” factor but really folks…what gives?

  • avatar

    Excellent story as always.

    And yes there are enough idiot parkers to reason a class on parking. It’s not that hard people, the goal is to maximize availible parking while not being in anyone’s way.

  • avatar


    Stop talking about it.

    You put a post up on Facebook about the sweet sign that you found. Hate to say this but YES, this is actually government property.

    On top of that, you don’t know what intersection or busy street that the sign you “took” came from and what accidents came about from the sign being gone. Just sayin’…

    No big deal, you say?

    Kind of like tearing up a $20 bill. Aside from the fact that it is completely wasteful, but “no big deal”. Well, it is actually a big deal. It’s “gubmint” property.

    It’s like your idiot cousin (everyone has an idiot cousin who is in their mid 20’s and lives in their mom’s basement) who brings home random shopping carts and beats them to hell. That’s also something called “stealing”, and its not too far removed from that sign you “borrowed” and placed on your fence.

    Too much action on your FB page. I’d just calmly set the sign on a sidewalk somewhere and walk away. Unless you like being haunted with the thought of Officer Dan asking you about the “sign in your trunk” picture.

    But chances are, if some cop or city official with nothing else better to do has not interrogated you about it by now, I’d say you’ll be fine.

    But next time you do this… try not to talk about it so much, okay?

  • avatar

    You can buy these signs from the same place cities, counties etc buy them from. Municipalities don’t have little sign factories pumping out street signs, they buy them from sign makers. I seriously doubt they stamp them with the owners name or give them a serial number that can be traced back to the owner. If it does have something stamped on the back then consider quietly leaving it on the side of a rural road. Unless your caught with a trunk full of signs and people in the area have been calling about signs going missing I wouldn’t worry about it.

  • avatar

    Create three spots, make them look nice and mark them “Reserved.” Peaple will park there.

  • avatar

    My wife and her middle school friend stole a “low-flying planes” sign from a road near where they grew up. A defense plant was located nearby. That was over 30 years ago.

    The sign is gone now and I doubt anyone’s missing it. But yeah, it’s theft.

  • avatar

    I’d just put up a “Customer Parking” sign or a blue P sign, and do the spots where they are full squares, instead of two lines with a bump stop. People seem to try harder in these box spaces, I’ve noticed.

  • avatar

    Heh. I remember the time in college when the city put up two NO PARKING signs within a car length of each other in front of the church across the street from Old Main, the large three-story ancient building that was still the heart of the college. After about a week one of the signs and its post which was made of galvanized steel pipe disappeared. Oddly enough, one of my friends who was also a car guy and who had a welder simultaneously acquired a brand new-looking towbar largely made of galvanized steel pipe.

  • avatar
    beach cruiser

    Another nice morning read from Mr. Lang. One part of this story is confusing to this long time resident of Sunny SoCal. How does the whole “water fountain” concept work? Do you mean that you can walk around in Georgia and these fountains just randomly pop up? Are you required to put in a few pounds of quarters to make it run? Is there a morbidly obese matron riding around on a three wheel scooter monitoring all this activity? OMG, the water isn’t FREE is it? Out here, water is spelled AQUAFINA.

  • avatar

    An 83 300D in Georgia?
    Where does the 30-30 go?

  • avatar

    I suggest making a few “Mini Van Only” signs, that should keep em in the right spots!

    Nice Benz btw, good cars with pricey parts from what I know.

    Those facebook responses were amusing if typical, reminds me of a thread I made somewhere mentioning video game system modding/repair, not only was I assaulted by white knights, I was compared to Nazis of all things.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Some well meaning PETA/Greenpeace person may have actually left the sign in the Georgia mud so all the tiny, biting critters would have proper traffic regulation. He found it and was not out with a can of WD-40 and some wrenches stealing it off a signpost. For those who gnash their teeth and wring their hands that it’s “Gubmint” property; which “Gubmint exactly? Federal? State? County? Township? City? Village? Town? Are you aghast that the gubmint didn’t paint/barcode/diestamp their valuable property? Hell, lets get the TTAC LEO haters on here and have them insist “recovering stolen traffic signs should be the real focus of police work.” Yeah, a lot of overreaction for something was illegally dumped and found by Steve.

  • avatar

    Sure, technically it’s “illegal possession of someone else’s property” but one guy having one bent-up sign that probably would be discarded because of the damage ought to be met with a reasonable official response of “hey, give that back” or “I’ll need to confiscate that sign” rather than threats of a citation, fine or (gulp!) incarceration.

    Signs like this also turn up in thrift stores, at surplus auctions, on ebay and freight- damage stores. Just today, I was just looking at a brand- new full sized official “stop” sign for sale at the freight damage & surplus store in my town. It would have looked great on my garage wall next to the “No Parking” sign I got at the Goodwill.

  • avatar

    Nice post .

    Fun responses .

    I work for ‘ The Gubmint ‘ and one fine day discovered a 1964 speed limit sign lying in the street , put it in my truck and headed back to the shop ~ I have lots of old sings from here and there and thought it would look lice , the printing and colors are all different from the current Federally mandated traffic sign style .

    The guys in my shop hassled me *so* much about planning to take it home (you know , the same guys who routinely steal tires and batteries) I chucked it into the scrap metal bin where all old signs go because I was beginning to get concerned they’d ch*ckensh*t on me and call the upper management who’s always looking for someone to hang high as an example .

    I’m not sure what the heck I should do with the illuminated YUGO sign I found some years back….

    BTW : old Mercedes Diesels are indeed *very* nice but BEWARE THE ‘CHEAP’ MERCEDES ! it’ll be the single most expen$ive car you’ll ever own .


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