Dr. Know: Extra Street Signs, A “Fifth Third Better,” and Streetcar Mysteries

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

Along Riverside Drive near St. Rose Church, there’s a street sign for Torrence Road. But there’s no road, just a tiny ramp that dead-ends into some bushes. Why does the city bother with the expense of a street sign? Maybe it was a street once, but not now. —ROAD TO NOWHERE

Dear Nowhere:

Ah, yes, the eternal “Why does the city bother with the expense of…” inquiry. Show a bit more respect for that tiny ramp: It is the estranged relative of the same Torrence that now terminates at Columbia Parkway. Both streets once entered into one of Cincinnati’s largest railroad stops: Torrence Road Station.

Serving the gilded families of Hyde Park and Walnut Hills from 1907 to 1933, the depot was well appointed, with an elevator to negotiate the steep hill and a large sculpted bas relief depicting some of Cincinnati’s first settlers. In poor condition today, that sculpture survives among the station’s skeletal remains, which are now hidden behind time’s indifferent overgrowth.

History explorers occasionally trespass into the area to take photos. But according to city officials, the street sign is not there to assist anyone with locating and lurking. It’s there because enough pavement still exists on this rump of Torrence Road to render it an actual street and require a No Parking sign. As we said: eternal.

The new ads for Fifth Third Bank claim that they are a “fifth third better.” However, one fifth of one third means “one fifteenth worse.” Also, the bank’s logo is displayed as “5/3.” Does that mean it’s really the Five Thirds Bank? Shouldn’t a bank be better at grammar, and especially at math? —FRACTION REACTION

Dear Fraction:

When Cincinnati’s Fifth National and Third National Banks merged in 1908, they clearly failed to appreciate their new name’s giggle factor. But now, this new ad campaign forces us to withstand the additional wrath of the dreaded AGSP.

The Advertising Grammar Schoolmarm Police is (are!) an organization with a long and annoying history. It was (They were!) founded back when cigarette ads started deploying such slogans as Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch. AGSP members have long awaited the arrest of those responsible for L’eggo My Eggo. Apple’s motto from 1997, Think Different, makes them think pitchforks. AGSP reluctantly approves of Honda ads proclaiming To Each Their Own, because usage of the gender-neutral pronoun their has begun to gradually gain acceptance (split infinitive!).

A San Francisco ad agency that obviously understands the burden of an odd name—Pereira & O’Dell—created the current campaign for Fifth Third. The Doctor was unable to determine if they have earned an official wagging finger from the AGSP, or whether that “5/3” received a thumbs down from GAAA, the Guardians of Advertising Arithmetic Accuracy. No, no, it’s pronounced “ah-rith-MEH-tik!”

What are the weird numbers on the poles for the streetcar? Each one has a small sign with a number like “240+98.” I assume it’s to identify the poles for repairs and such, but what’s with the plus symbol? Why not an ordinary number, like on the parking meters? —POLLING THE POLES

Dear Polling:

The Doctor implores, please do not stir up yet another streetcar controversy. Yes, each pole has a number specifying its location in case the Connector should need assistance with a sudden problem, such as, say, bankruptcy. Just as a highway mile marker indicates its distance from the state line, each streetcar pole shows how far it is from a fixed marker, of which there are several. Where are they hiding? The lowest-numbered pole the Doctor could find during his investigation was 00+9, near the intersection of Walnut Street and Central Parkway. That’s “near” because trying to locate the precise 00+00 point could invite being struck by a texting driver. Dedication has its limits.

The number configuration you describe as weird is but an ordinary sight for civil engineers: it’s called “stationing.” It denotes 100 feet per unit, plus any additional footage under 100. For example, if you stand at the 817+61 pole at Walnut and Second Street near Great American Ball Park, you are exactly 81,761 feet from where the Doctor would get run over at Walnut and Central Parkway. He opted to return to the streetcar, listening to the friendly pre-recorded shouting of each stop by an altogether overly enthusiastic Nick Lachey—but only for a few more stops. As we said: limits.

Dr. Know is Jay Gilbert, weekday afternoon deejay on 92.5 FM The Fox. Submit your questions about the city’s peculiarities at drknow@cincinnatimagazine.com.

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