Hammer Time: Portrait Of A Misdemeanor
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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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.
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 . -Nate