Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr returned home to Massachusetts this week after spending some time “car camping” near the coast of New Brunswick with his wife.
Calling Canada a “gorgeous country,” Burr used the first 43 words of his Thursday column to encourage Globe readers to pay our home and native land a visit themselves (aw shucks).
The remaining 723 words, however, were devoted to analyzing all of the confusing Canadian highway signs he’d passed during his weeklong trip.
“What began as a minor puzzlement for my wife and me bloomed over the course of a few days into a full-on obsession,” he wrote of the various signs they encountered. “What in the name of Rob Ford were the road signs trying to tell us?”
Burr’s friends and family on Facebook were equally confused by a photo he posted of a green-and-white River Valley Scenic Drive signpost. None of the 2,845 people who weighed in on his post could reportedly identify it.
“The signs of New Brunswick’s highways and byways aren’t exactly done wrong, but they seem to require a cognitive leap of which our American sensibilities, enfeebled by reality TV shows and Katy Perry songs, are incapable,” he explained. “My wife and I found ourselves gazing across a semiotic void, one that necessitated a more elusive process of conversion than miles to kilometres, English to French, or American quarters to Canadian dollars.”
So, instead of trying to decipher the signs, he came up with some creative interpretations of his own:
‘Beaver in utero just ahead’
Actual meaning of the sign: Parks Canada
‘Twerking in a national park is punishable by stoning’
Actual meaning of the sign: Falling rocks
‘A man is dreaming about being an egg. Or an egg is dreaming about being a man. Which came first? Philosophical quandaries addressed at the Inter-Province Deconstruction Centre, 2 km’
Actual meaning of the sign: Bed and breakfast nearby
‘I understand that all available lodgings are booked, but you are welcome to stay in my hayloft for $250 Canadian.’
Actual meaning of the sign: Agri-tourism
‘Only charcoal-filtered cigarettes may be smoked on this road’
Actual meaning of the sign: Pavement ends
‘Should you happen to die during your visit to Canada, we will ship your remains home in a decorative urn made by one of our many talented local artisans’
Actual meaning of the sign: Local artisans nearby
Burr’s column has been shared widely since it was published, picking up steam among good-humoured Canadians and Americans alike.
Of course, as others around the web have pointed out in the past, the U.S. isn’t exactly free of confusing road signs.
For instance, what is this sign found in Portland, Ore., trying to say?
Or this one, spotted in Delta Junction, Alaska?