Have you ever sat in your idling vehicle waiting through the red light at Port Stanley's
main intersection, in the winter when there are no other cars around, and either
turned or been tempted to turn against the red light?
Now I know I'm supposed to hibernate all winter, but it really hasn't been all that
cold, so I've been out running around and I've noticed a few peculiarities about
Port Stanley in the winter time.
One of my favourite spots to get the odd tasty tidbit from one of those funny looking
humans is the corner outside the Village Café. Now that I've hung around outside
all winter, I see that from mid-October to mid-May the village's main intersection
gets very little traffic. Unlike the summer when the cars can be lined up bumper-to-bumper
in every direction, if there's any traffic at all in the winter, it is usually just
one lonely vehicle patiently spewing exhaust out its tailpipe while waiting for
the light to finally turn green.
I've seen the not-so-patient go up and around the cairn to turn right onto Colborne
because they were sick of waiting for the light to turn green for a left turn. I've
seen the impatient actually turn left on the red, and pedestrians rarely wait for
the light to change. A power outage a little while ago made the traffic light work
like a four-way flashing stop. What little traffic there was moved through the intersection
without mishap and no one waited very long. So why don't the humans make the light
a four-way flashing stop all the time from mid-October to mid-May?
Of course, parking in the area is at a premium, especially with the length of the
turning lanes increased and the loss of some on-street parking spots. One poor lady
drove down Bridge Street, turned to look for a parking spot in the municipal lot
behind Bridge Street but found it full, and then drove up and down Main Street look
for a spot to park. She finally parked illegally and ran in to get a coffee to go.
What I can't figure out - maybe because I'm just a dumb squirrel and not a brilliant
human - is why neither the municipality or the BIA either buy or rent that empty
lot behind the Village Café and use it for a public parking lot. Obviously having
only one public parking lot close to the main intersection (the one behind the pharmacy)
isn't enough to meet demand, even in the winter.
I also scurried down to the theatre district in the bright sunshine the other day
because that's a great spot for hand-outs in the summer. Kids were coming out of
the library and they often have extra munchies. The kids ran across the road without
noticing me, but I noticed something as their grandmother, using a walker, made
her way across the road much more slowly.
There are two spots with the ramped curb for wheelchair access; one is narrow and
almost unnoticeable right in front of the theatre door, and the other one closer
to the bridge is broader and ramps onto the widest part of Bridge Street to cross.
But there are no pavement markings or signs to indicate this is a pedestrian crossing
area like there are by the school; nothing to warn motorists. Both the library and
the theatre are heavily used by kids and seniors. When cars are parked along the
sides of the road, you don't always see these access ramps. Kids dart and seniors
are slow. Seniors are also inclined to dart. Nope, without pavement markings and
pedestrian crossing signs, this spot is an accident waiting to happen.
But I have to say the funniest thing I've seen this winter was the couple needing
to pee. I'm a squirrel, I can take a whiz anywhere, but it seems humans have rules
even about this. Now it was a little cold in the early morning that day and a little
windy. A nice couple came striding across the bridge, out for an exercise walk.
They made a bee-line for the library doors, but they were locked. Suddenly the lady
started holding her legs together. She looked around frantically and dashed over
to The Roxy Diner. Those doors were also locked. She moved up the street and tried
Killer Desserts, but they weren't open either. In fact, nobody was open and, it
seems, there are no public washrooms downtown. The only public washrooms are at
Main Beach, and they're also not open in the winter.
Her husband started to laugh and suggested they find a bush to do it "au naturel".
He found a spot but she insisted it was too exposed for her to bare her bottom.
Her husband's laugh grew from a smile to a chuckle as she danced around pressing
her thighs together. Finally, in desperation, she made him stand guard while steam
rose from a steady yellow stream melting the snow.
To this squirrel, it seems if you're going to have all these rules about where humans
can pee, then you should put in public washrooms to go with the rules. Oh wait,
I seem to remember seeing a picture a few years ago of a young man defecating into
the harbour - and still no public washrooms downtown?
So there you have it - Port Stanley's winter oddities:
- a full service traffic light when there's no traffic
- a lack of public parking near the main business intersection of town
- an unmarked pedestrian crossing by the library that is an accident waiting to happen
- and the only downtown public washroom being the great outdoors.
And you humans think squirrels are stupid.