What’s Your Sign?

“Welcome to America. Now speak English.”

It may have been the largest billboard I’d ever seen. And it couldn’t have been more clearly stated.

Uncle Sam’s iconic, and perhaps slightly animated, image was off to the left of this expansive billboard. It must have been about 40‘x60’, sitting happily atop of an Army Navy surplus store along highway 5, south of Seattle. It was May of 2005, and someone in America had a beef with immigrants – legal or otherwise.

At least they were still welcome…so said the sign.

The message is somewhat irrelevant. Perhaps far from benign, but certainly not worthy of a photograph although a recent, morbidly curious google search revealed it is available as a bumper sticker for about USD$5.00 – if you’d like to have the “large” one.

This alarms me on so many levels. Not that it costs $5, but the whole context of it.

At least the spelling was correct and it was written in the Queen’s English. No irony there.

“I love animals. Their delicious.”

Really? What about their delicious. Assuming we can all agree that “delicious” cannot be used as a noun, let’s move on to my next query. Their delicious what? Could you clarify for me? I really need this to be an adjective, please…for the future of humanity.

That one was on the back of a pick up truck in Kelowna, BC. The fact that is was misspelled only served to reinforce a very unkind, but delightfully heartwarming stereotype. (I’m a vegetarian, so this made me even more delighted with the stereotype.)

I also liked the fact that the truck was pulled to the side of the road as a police car sat behind it, presumably about the write the driver a ticket. Had it been me in the ‘Mountie uniform, I’d have written him up for poor grammar, too.

And should you be so inclined, as you or I might be in the event of a train wreck (you know, you can’t stop staring), there’s a Facebook page dedicated to “I love animals. Their delicious.” (grammatical error intact) with more that 230 friends/fans. Not that it needs to be promoted, but morbid curiosity subs as a delightful muse for me from time to time.

Seek it out if you can’t control yourself.

You see, there’s typos, and then there’s stupidity. I’m no stranger to sending a client a commercial campaign script with delightful assortments of typos. It’s become expected that a client will seek them out and point them out. I’m never embarrassed, I get so wrapped up in the moment writing (and deadlines are usually “yesterday”) that I am more focused on the concept and content than I am the spell check feature. Still, I never mistake the use of “they’re, there, or their”. Nor do I tolerate the misuse of “you’re, your, or yore”. Get the last one wrong and I’m really going to loose it.

A week ago I was wandering aimlessly through a crowded convention hall. It was the Kamloops Home & Garden Show. I stopped at the Beachcomber Hot Tub display. Owning one of the same brand, I was curious to see their marketing materials. I love to collect these brochures for client reference. And to my delight, they didn’t disappoint. A “factory supplied sign” as the representative explained. He went on to point out he was an English major in university, and he, too, failed to notice the error in the sign.

“But it’s the first word”, I said with a smile.

Am I? I had no idea that I am.


Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes, plays, and consults for clients on Canada’s West Coast. From time to time, he shares the stories that make his company, GreatCreative.Com successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.


Size 46 Pajamas!

I like a big story. I like a big idea.  And every ounce of my Newfoundlander upbringing likes a big laugh. But apart from being 6’2”, (blue eyes and blonde curly locks-once-apon-a-time), I’m not a big person…and I have no real interest in being someone “big”.  It’s not me.

I was working on a project earlier today for a client. He’s a custom homebuilder with a great reputation, a string of home building awards to his credit, and a waiting list of clients who want him to build their homes. And you’d think in this economy, he’d just hire a bunch of those out of work trades people we keep reading about here in BC and build everyone’s house right away! Get it done before the money and work goes elsewhere.

Hell, I would have thought that, too.

So in his email to me regarding his blog update and website changes he said he decided he only wanted to build three to four homes a year. The whole idea of being a “large volume builder” was a loss to him. He couldn’t focus on giving each client personal attention, nor could he be hands-on with each project if he spent all his time managing ten or more home constructions in the one year. Of course when you see the kinds of homes he builds, you come to understand his commitment to quality.

Essentially, he knows that being big does not mean being better.

It didn’t really surprise me, but it made me sit back and think about the ever-growing list of companies who obviously think bigger is better – like Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire, Home Depot, and the American “we’re buying Canada” company Target; who collectively occupy about a half-million square feet in retail space and have at least ten employees between them. (I swear Home Depot’s motto has changed to, “You can’t find it. We won’t help”.)

Is bigger better? (Texans need not respond). Do we really need one or two mega companies at the cost of many smaller ones who actually treat customers like humans and genuinely appreciate our business? For that matter, is it necessary to have 26 ounce steak on a menu?

Bigger is not only not better, (Jeeze, my high school English teacher, Stump Kelly, is spinning in his grave after that last display of poor sentence structure, double, possibly triple negatives, and the aside into which I just launched) it’s bloody friggin’ annoying. No one can be everything to everyone… not even Stephen Harper – although you can tell him, I’m not risking my position on the voter’s list.

Big doesn’t mean better service. It doesn’t even guarantee the company will be here next year. You know the saying, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall”. Heck, In Kelowna, BC alone, three big advertising agencies have gone boobies to the sky in the last 2 years. While little guys like me (www.greatcreative.com) are still here, chugging along making a living – and providing exceptional customer service in the process. (a wee moment of shameless self-promotion, if you will)

And, when the feeling is right, and the client is willing, I have a big idea. It just comes from a small company.

Back a long time ago when I was first dating the girl I would marry, her sister made me a pair of pajamas for Christmas. They were size 46 waist. I’ve never been more than a 36. ..okay, maybe a 38 that first year at St. Francis Xavier University (you know how it is, away from home for the first time, lots of comfort food in the cafeteria) …but never near the PJ size as Bri thought I was.

They’re big.  And every once in a while they pop up in front of me like a big idea…

…so I try them on.

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes and plays on Canada’s West Coast, and from time to time, he shares the stories that make his company, GreatCreative.Com successful. Other times, it’s just, “Blah, blah, blah, his mouth won’t stop”. For a much shorter rambling follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.