Brian O'Neill: There's one good sign that commutes may not have to be such a drag

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Commuting daily on a busy two-lane road is headache enough. Mix in construction and it’s like a poke in the eye. Double the pain.

That’s been the lot of drivers on Greentree Road in recent months. A favored feeder of the Parkway West from Mt. Lebanon and Scott, its users have had to contend with lane restrictions while workers install new water and gas lines.

When the sign man spins the pole from “SLOW’’ to “STOP’’ just as you’re nearing, the smile quotient sinks. For some heading toward the parkway, though, grins have come when passing a blue house on the right.

Brieta Dougherty-Brill, 32, a schoolteacher from Mt. Lebo whose fiance, Matthew Anderson, lives in Green Tree, wanted to get a message to the owners of that blue house. That’s a bit of a turnaround for the blue house denizens who are forever leaving declarations for passing and stuck commuters.

“Each and every day, thousands of people pass by your house and have the opportunity to read one of the thoughtful messages that are propped on the bench in your driveway,’’ Ms. Dougherty-Brill wrote in an email to the PG.

“My heart and head always feel a little happier after passing this random act of kindness.’’

I was driving on Greentree Road not long after reading that, so I pulled into the driveway of the blue house near Potomac Avenue after seeing a sign on the white bench: “Today Is A Good Day.’’

The woman of the house looked at me kind of funny when I explained why I was there.

“I did it for myself, first,’’ Dena Rose said.

She’s in public relations by trade but didn’t think a sign on a bench would lead to a knock on the door. She started a couple of Thanksgivings ago with “Count Your Blessings,’’ put up a “Follow Your Heart’’ around Valentine’s Day, and may have gone through as many as 20 messages by now.

“Someone Else Is Happy With Less Than What You Have’’ is one that tickled me.

Before long, her husband of 24 years, Joe Buzila, came home from work and said he grumbles when he has to put the signs up, but he said that with a smile almost as wide as the bench. Her father, August Bisesi, who treats the signs with polyurethane to make sure they last, also came out the door to see what was up.

When Ms. Rose had some more time to think about it, she told me, “So many suburban and urban heroes get up every day and go to work to pay the bills and feed their families.’’ If she can make their days any easier, she’s happy.

Maybe not everyone is appreciative, at least not openly. Even as mild a suggestion as “Count Your Blessings’’ may lead some behind the wheel to mumble, “Don’t tell me what to do. Count your own.’’

But I expect she’s making those passing crabs’ days, too. There’s nothing a grouch likes better than a good grumble. Nice that’s she’s helping them get that out of the way before work.

“Scatter Seeds of Kindness,’’ another sign says. She mostly buys the signs when she comes upon one in a store, but occasionally Ms. Rose will have one made, such as “If nothing’s going right, go left.’’

I like that. I don’t like it as much as the old Jack Handy line that went “It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.’’ But that may explain why few people smile when they drive past my house.

Anyway, Ms. Rose was very pleased to read the email from a fan like Ms. Dougherty-Brill. As for the next sign, she’s having one made that says, “Start Procrastinating Now.’’

No better time to begin than when you’re waiting for that sign man to flip his sign.

Brian O’Neill: boneill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1947.


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