Behind the Signs

In the early spring of 2014 I blogged about a new sign in the neighborhood. The sign — DRINKING WATER SUPPLY AREA • PLEASE PROTECT IT! — bugged me. It bugged me because it was completely unnecessary. Nothing was being done in the vicinity to threaten the Vineyard’s sole-source aquifer.

It bugs me less these days, one, because I’ve gotten used to it, and two, because it’s now pretty well concealed by leaves. The trees are having their way with puny human interventions. Go, trees!

Lately I’ve been noticing new signs in my neighborhood and in the areas I wander frequently and contemplating their significance. Here are a couple of them.

072016 pine hill

Pine Hill is a dirt road. On an off-islander’s map or maybe GPS it might look like a through way, but it’s not — unless you’re on foot, bike, horseback, or an all-terrain vehicle. Only two houses have motor vehicle access from Old County Road. My hunch here is that the year-round residents of #43 (with whom I have a nodding acquaintance) got tired of UPS and FedEx drivers pulling into their driveway and asking how to get to a house with a much higher number. How often can you say “You can’t get there from here” without losing your patience or your sense of humor?

Within a couple of weeks of my landing on Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 1985, an overnight parcel — something editorial — arrived for me. I had no fixed address at the time. Maybe two people total knew I was here at all — so I thought. Otis, the UPS driver at the time, stopped at Alley’s General Store, where the main West Tisbury post office was then located, and asked how to find me. He was directed to the house where I was staying, back in the woods off State Road, and there my package was delivered. I wasn’t officially on anyone’s radar, but they knew whom I knew and thus where I was.

Those days are long gone. I miss them.

airport sign 1

airport sign 2Every three weeks I do my laundry at the Airport Laundromat. While my clothes are washing, Trav and I stroll around the airport grounds. The sign above appeared earlier this year. My immediate reaction was “WTF?” We’re not talking about runways here. To the right you can see the sign in its natural context.

In other words: Yeah, right. Any aircraft operating in this area is going to have more trouble than a couple of trespassers. Trav and I ignored it. A couple of times we’ve run into dog walkers from Animal Health Care’s kennel. We look at the sign, then we look at each other, and we wonder what the hell those sign posters are trying to prove.

20160821 road signWithin the last couple of weeks street signs appeared on the Dr. Fisher Road, the beloved road whose ruts, moguls, and monstrous puddles I’ve documented a few times. Street signs! on the Dr. Fisher Road! Mind you, I wouldn’t love this road so much if I lived on it or had to drive on it. As it is, I just walk on it — frequently — with my dog.

Now there are street signs at either end, one on Old County Road, the other on the Old Stage Road across from the dump. Any passerby with eyes will now know where the Dr. Fisher Road is.

Everyone who’s lived on Martha’s Vineyard for 10 years or so has their idea of when exactly the island started on the long, slow (or short, fast) slide to hell. Mine is when street signs went up on either end of Lambert’s Cove Road, so newcomers didn’t have to ask anyone which was the upper end and which the lower. The signs told them. Oldtimers became superfluous. New arrivals no longer had the thrill of finally getting it straight.

The slide, slow or fast, long or short, continues. There are signs at either end of the Dr. Fisher Road.

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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5 Responses to Behind the Signs

  1. How about Scotchman’s ? A lane/road about two city blocks long. At one end the sign says, “Scotsman’s Bridge Road,” and at the other end it says, “Scotchman’s Lane.” I think I got that right. And if you cross State Road Scotchman’s – that’s what we call it — becomes “Panhandle Road,” and if you keep walking with Travvy, it morphs into “Music Street.” According to Shirley Mayhew, who finds out information such as this, Music Street was originally known as Cow Turd Lane. Cynthia



    Liked by 1 person

    • Penacook in Oak Bluffs is so spelled at one end but Pennacook at the other. Seems to me there’s another road in that area that changes names in the middle, but I can’t remember what it is. I should do a “my favorite typos” sign blog. My hands-down favorite is from the Vineyard Harbor Motel in the late 1990s: One January it was TEMPORALLY CLOSED. A writer friend suggested that this would be the perfect motel for writers with imminent deadlines. They could check in, have time stand still till they finished the novel, then turn the ms. in on time.


  2. Reminds me of the Five Man Electrical Band song “Signs” (Signs, signs, everywhere signs…blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind…do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the signs)… I’m with you — Go trees!

    Liked by 1 person

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