Thursday, June 24, 2021

Inoperable bollard

     "That's a lovely view," I said, settling on a park bench on the trail ringing the Basin in Northbrook. "I just want to sit here and look at that bollard."
     It was a joke, of course. My wife and I sometimes cap off our workdays by walking on The Trail Through Time, an expanse of prairie that Northbrook has cannily crafted out of wasteland. Beyond it are soccer fields, a skateboard park, the new rec center, and the Basin, a storm water catchment area made into an attractive field.
     "Is it good-looking?" she said, or words to that effect.
     "No," I admitted. "I just like saying the word, 'bollard.'" Perhaps not a familiar term to everybody. "A wooden or iron post, on a ship, a whale-boat or a quay," the Oxford English Dictionary tells us, "for securing ropes to."
     Or a concrete post concealing a light on a suburban path.
     The joke, in case it doesn't translate beyond the moment, is to take in this beautiful expansive view—the photograph doesn't capture it—and focus on the little squat post lost in shadow in the foreground. Then again, I'm not sure it was funny, even then.
     Our walk takes about an hour, over the train tracks, past St. Norbert's. We encounter people with dogs, families on bikes, numerous redwing blackbirds. We don't normally pause to sit. But we'd gotten up early and were tired. I didn't see the bollard until we sat down.
    I took out my phone and snapped a picture of it.     
     "Maybe I'll do a blog post," I said.
     "You did one already," she replied.
     More than five years ago. When I noticed a sign, "Operable Bollards" on the campus of Northwestern. Not exactly the most dramatic post. But she remembered it. That's flattering. One wants this stuff to stick in mind.



  1. That is lovely. The word bollard appeared everywhere, along with the bollards, after 9-11. Suddenly the sidewalk around every courthouse and post office was being torn up so bollards could be installed. Though perhaps I have the time frame wrong--it would make more sense if it happened after the Oklahoma City bombing. And indeed, the every faithful Madame Google confirms it was after Oklahoma City.

  2. I once read I don't remember where that the brain is built for forgetting. That if you remembered everything it would be horrible and you wouldn't be able to sort through all the information

    We train the brain to remember and as we all know it can be a very difficult process to remember specific things that we choose to.

    Then for some unknown reason we remember things that we never plan to for no apparent reason. And they pop up unexpectedly.

    Sometimes it's a remarkable Joy sometimes it's pretty awful.

    Some people only remember awful things and can't seem to shake them from the front of their mind.

    You're a fortunate man that your wife seems to remember the good things.

  3. I couldn't have told you the specifics of the earlier post, but when I saw the title of today's, I thought "he's written about bollards before..."

    Not that they're not a worthy enough topic for more consideration! ; ) But... but... but... by your own admission, that's not a bollard.

    Also, sorry to report, the link to "Operable Bollards" goes to the blogger home page. D'oh!

  4. I'm not sure how this notion that it's not a bollard came about, as (at least in Europe) bollards are everywhere, doing all kinds of traffic or non-traffic control. The idea of adding lights to a bollard was inspired, giving it something useful to do in the long hours when it's not fending off armed terrorists in stolen vans.

    Our local Walmarts (and most others, presumably) have an elaborate network of tall, thin, blue plastic-covered bollards, some with LED lighting and some without, in strategic lineups outside their buildings. The unlit ones are assigned to basic traffic duty, although those closest to the doors also get to wear tall thin cardboard sleeves advertising the latest daily specials and what-not.

    They're apparently important to the store, as I arrived one day to see a damaged one getting replaced. This involved two workers, multiple carts of equipment and a large double-parked van. The men were working away in grim silence, as if they'd just been brought in from Des Moines at 5 a.m. on a Level 5 Emergency Bollard Installation, but when they were finished some hours later, we had a perfectly replaced blue plastic soldier already maintaining order up front.

    I think we don't always notice Useful Things around us until they're damaged, missing, or get lights put in them.

    1. I got the notion from the photo and the setting, Andy. I guess I can't be sure, but I don't imagine that the stubby light posts at that location are "excluding or diverting motor vehicles from a road, lawn, or the like" which is the applicable definition of the word. I can pretty well assume that the pictured one is not a "low post ... to which mooring lines from vessels are attached," the primary definition.

      I'll concede that it could be a standard bollard design that's not functioning there as a bollard... Not that I'm a nitpicky bastard, or anything. ; )


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