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The sign Nazis of Cary, NC

Posted by Richard on November 8, 2005

I’m in Raleigh, NC, attending the FrameMaker 2005 Chautauqua, which is simply a conference-by-cuter-name for users of Adobe FrameMaker. FrameMaker is the tool of choice for authoring long, complex technical documents, so most of the attendees are technical writers.

I arrived Sunday evening, rented a car, and headed for my hotel in Cary, just outside of Raleigh, shortly after dark. I had a map and directions from MapQuest, which took me precisely to the correct interstate exit, through a couple of turns, and onto Buck Jones Rd., where my destination was. Go 0.5 miles and you’re at 1020 Buck Jones, said the directions. I did. No sign of Candlewood Suites, my destination.

I drove back and forth and around several times — and, yes, I did stop at a gas station and get some vaguely helpful directions — before finally stumbling upon the place. It was buried deep in a shopping mall kind of place nestled into a heavily-wooded area. At its entrance off the wooded drive, well off the highway, was a small unlighted sign (less than two feet tall).

At the front desk, I exhasperatedly asked the manager, "Is there some kind of ordinance against signs here?" He replied, "Is there ever!" It seems each business in Cary may only have one tiny unlit sign at the entrance to its property and may not have another sign out by the highway. He’d tried to get around it with a 65-foot flagpole, but they made him take that down. We chatted a bit about the anti-business mentality behind such nonsense. He explained that the problem stems from too many Yankees moving to the area. I told him the Cary sign rules seemed even stricter than those in the People’s Republic of Boulder.

Later that evening, I tried to follow his directions to a grocery store less than 2 miles away. I missed it, turned around, missed it again, turned back around, missed it a third time, and pulled into a gas station. As I parked to go in and ask directions, I caught a glimpse of the store through some trees behind the gas station. I’d passed the entrance, marked by an unlit gray sign about 18" high at a slight break in the trees, about a hundred yards before the gas station.

These people made their shopping malls look like woodlands, hid those ugly storefronts and parking lots with tons of landscaping and trees, and apparently mandated muted lighting of those parking lots. The result is a lovely, idyllic community that’s got to be one of the most user-unfriendly places to get around that I’ve ever seen.

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4 Responses to “The sign Nazis of Cary, NC”

  1. Jim Gwyn said

    There is a reason the rest of us in NC refer to Cary as a “Containment Area for Relocated Yankees.”

  2. Jan from Denver said

    Damn those Yankees!! Don’t they realize you are wasting gas driving around trying to find things. It is time to come back to Denver, the home of signs advertising “Drugs and Liquor” at the same location, in neon and big enough to see. Damn those Yankees!

  3. David Aitken said

    And, quite obviously, it wastes a lot of gas, too.

  4. Scott Abel said

    You’re right about those sign issues in Cary. I spend more time trying to find places in Cary than actually enjoying them. But at least the sign ordiances don’t apply to inside the McKimmon Center (the venue in which the Adobe FrameMaker 2005 Chautauqua took place). LOL

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