My Sign

Kathie GibboneyBy Kathie Gibboney      September 17, 2021

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My Sign
Mysterious white chalk markings appeared on the street in front of our house, cryptic and vexing. Viewed at a distance from our patio, the letters were illegible, upside down and hard to read. We feared they might be some hateful graffiti spewed out by wayward youth, driven to misdeeds by fizzy, alcoholic canned beverages and the oppressive summer heat; ugly words casting aspersions on our age, or perhaps a disgruntled neighbor taking issue with our eclectic yard decor. Maybe the words read, “Old Crazy People Live Here!” or “Boomers Begone!” or, “Get a Landscaper!” When we moved to street level for a closer look, we were relieved to decipher the arcane scrawl as the letters, LADPW, complete with arrows pointing to the dirt parking area in front of our house and a measurement indication of five feet. There were also a few blue, flag markers inserted in the ground. We interpreted the letters to stand for, Los Angeles Department of Public Works and thought it had something to do with the small fire hydrant that has always been in front of our house. In this land of constant fire danger, a water hydrant right in front of our house seemed a good thing and we assumed it was marked for maintenance and didn’t give it further thought. A few weeks later a DPW truck pulled up in front of our house and a guy in his work vest began working with a jackhammer. By the time I threw on something presentable and ran down to see what he was doing he had finished and drove off. What efficiency! There in front of our house had been installed a tall metal pole. I recognized it as the kind to which street signs are attached and I didn’t like it. Unless the pole was to be topped with a peace sign, or Topanga’s magical mascot, the Flying Pig, or our lovely California Poppy logo, or a Shaka sign, all highly unlikely, I suspected some generic, industrial sign was slated to be posted right in front of our happy Old Canyon cottage home. I envisioned my future self scowling at it every time I arrived home, not to mention the probability of my running into the thing with my car while parking; I am somewhat challenged behind the wheel. However, before destroying aesthetically unpleasing city property, I decide to call (yes, I do) the Los Angeles Department of Public Works (God help me) and request the offending sign be moved. Soon I am caught in a quagmire of contact numbers and different offices ranging from Malibu to Burbank and once being misdirected to Santa Clarita which isn’t even part of Los Angeles. It being a Friday, many offices went straight to voicemail, stating no one was available or that they were temporarily closed due to COVID. Sometimes, I would thrill to reach a genuine human and tried to explain about the chalk markings and the signpost and ask what kind of sign it would be and requesting moving it even though no sign was yet attached to the pole and trying not to sound too crazy, good luck with that. I was passed from department to department and sometimes spoke to the same person twice, who, to his credit, remained patient, kindly informing me we had just spoken, and he could find no work order for work at our address. I left many messages and finally moved on to the equally daunting task of shopping for a swimming suit online. By 5:30 p.m. I was ready for a glass of wine. To my surprise, the very next week I heard someone leaving a message saying he was from the Department of Public Works, and I flew to answer the phone. A friendly man introduced himself as Superintendent Billy Ruiz. He informed me that someone was scheduled that very day to attach the top of the sign, something about trucks. I quickly requested to have it relocated just down the road apiece. He promised to try and reach his crew member. I thanked him again and we said good-bye. At that very moment a DPW truck rolled up. A smiling guy with a dark beard jumped out and began to get his tools. I quickly came running at him, rather like a crazy lady yelling, “Wait, wait, your supervisor is trying to reach you, we’re hoping to relocate the sign!” Of course, he didn’t get cell service. I grabbed our landline, reached Mr. Ruiz and gave the phone to his employee. After they spoke, obviously friends, I was handed the phone and Supervisor Ruiz explained the current work order first had to be completed before the new order for relocation could be instigated, but it would happen. I thanked him and wanted to believe. So, there stood the sign, just as I had feared. It was stark black and white stating “Weight Limit” with three pictures of various sized trucks, like the three bears, Daddy Truck, Mommy Truck and Baby Truck, with their allotted tonnage. Perhaps a young boy might enjoy the truck illustrations, but I was not enchanted, nor was our grown son who must have outgrown his one-time appreciation of trucks. When he came home to visit he said, “What the Hell’s with that sign in front of our house?” We assured him the Boomers were on it, only a matter of time until it’s relocated, yet we had little faith. Then to my great amazement one afternoon the Beleaguered Husband reported slyly, a wink in his eye, “Something’s missing from our yard.” Indeed, the sign had vanished from the front of our house, repositioned down Old Canyon, further south. What a miracle! Yes, I can still see it from our patio, but I now embrace it and smile. It is a testament to maneuvering successfully through bureaucracy and maybe, not moving mountains but moving one roadside sign. So as with “The Little Prince,” who tamed one fox out of all others, of all Topanga Road signs, of which there are many and some far more beautiful, this one is unique to me. This is my sign. Thank you, LADPW.
Kathie Gibboney

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