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Sean Kirst: A stop sign lost in weeds, a father's advice

Just a story. It doesn't really have a point.

Except, I guess, that it caused me to remember something my father used to say.

So I've been working full time at The News for a month and a half. Not long after I started, I was driving eastbound on Scott Street when I almost drove into traffic on Louisiana. I braked and did a double-take. There was a stop sign at the intersection, but I'd totally missed it. It was lost, all but covered by a thicket of tall sumac and weedy brush.

I pulled over as soon as I could, called 911, told a dispatcher what happened and wondered if the city could send someone out to chop down the brush. Then I kept going.

The other day, I came to the same intersection, from the same direction. It'd been a while since the first call. Nothing had changed. The stop sign was still essentially invisible behind the brush. It was a quiet evening, without traffic. I pulled over by the sign, my initial reaction one of self-righteous frustration. My instinct again was to grab my phone, to call 911, to ask why no one had cleaned it up. Hadn't I called to say this could be dangerous? What was wrong with civic government?

Then it occurred to me.

What was wrong with me?

I got out of the car. I wondered if I'd need some kind of tool, but the sumac and tall weeds snapped off easily in my hands. It took me somewhere in the area of 25 seconds to clear away the brush and make the stop sign visible and distinct.

Probably less time than it took to make the call.

Again, I offer no moral to the story, except as a reminder to myself of the fine advice my father – a crane operator from the West Side – often gave in a pointed way, the advice he undoubtedly would have offered at that moment, and to wonder why I didn't remember these words in the first place.

If you want to get something done, get off your own .....

Sean Kirst is a columnist with The Buffalo News. Email him at or read more of his work in this archive.

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