Pop quiz! Without thinking too long, complete the following sentence: “I posted an innocuous picture on Facebook with a good-natured comment, and the thread of comments below it quickly turned into …”
If the first thing that came to mind was something along the lines of “… a noxious cesspit of misunderstandings, insults, and nasty personal comments,” then you’re obviously a) a sentient human being who is b) familiar with Facebook and has c) spent more than three minutes on the site. (For what it’s worth, one of my own rules of thumb on Facebook is to stop reading when anyone uses any of the following, which is by no means a comprehensive list: woke, Libturd, sheeple, freedumb, snowflake, fascism, conspiracy, or Hitler. The only exception to this last one would be during a thoughtful conversation about World War II, and I don’t see a lot of those on Facebook.)
All too often I have seen what starts as a perfectly innocent thread devolve into something that should come with a content warning: “Caution: Frothy, angry people with too much time on their hands, dubious grammar, and poor spelling ahead. Viewer discretion is advised.” It’s therefore fair to give credit where it’s due, and note that last week I posted an innocuous picture on Facebook with a good-natured comment, and the thread below it quickly turned into a very interesting, informative, and pleasant exchange.
The picture was one I took of the mileage sign on Highway 97C as you head to Logan Lake, just above the mobile home park. The sign gives the distances from that point to Logan Lake, Merritt, Kamloops, and Hope, and as I drew near it during one of my walks I was struck again by the distance listed to Kamloops: 190 kilometres.
As anyone who has driven that road knows, it is not 190 kilometres to Kamloops from Ashcroft via Logan Lake if — when you arrive at the latter — you take Highways 97D and 5. It is, however, 190 kilometres if, when you get to Logan Lake, you continue along 97C to Merritt and then take the Coquihalla.
The sign therefore isn’t incorrect, but it is a tad misleading, particularly if you don’t know the area. I posted my picture, with a comment to that effect, and was very pleasantly surprised when it sparked the interesting, informative, and pleasant exchange mentioned above.
There were good-humoured comments from people who had driven past the sign many times and never spotted the anomaly. There was speculation about why it said the distance it did, with one commenter named Brett writing “[B]ecause you are on 97C the sign follows the route of 97C which leads to Merritt. 97D is an alternate so you wouldn’t see the alternate route distance until approaching the 97D junction.” There were posts about other signs that seemed odd or misleading, or were misspelled. There were witty comments. One or two people asked if it was true that distance between two municipalities is measured from city hall to city hall, and wondered what the landmark was in an unincorporated spot.
Someone named Hayley, who is a sign designer for the Ministry of Transportation, saw the post and said that they were inclined to agree with Brett’s explanation, but added that it should really be measured “by the quickest possible route. I’ll take it to engineering and let them determine if it needs [to be] revised.” Hayley also confirmed that city halls are used as measuring points for distance, since municipal boundaries can move, and said that in unincorporated places the post office is generally used.
The thread was, in short, a delight (and educational to boot: bonus!), as well as a welcome reminder that sometimes we can have nice things. I’ll remember it next time I bail on a Facebook conversation where some commenters clearly haven’t learned a lesson they should have picked up in grade school: there’s plenty of room in the sandbox, if everyone can just play nicely together.