It happens all the time, say the morning regulars over at Loca Mocha, the coffee shop at 8836 Brookfield Ave.
Someone gets off the Metra train at Prairie Avenue, having missed the Zoo Stop in Hollywood. They look for the nearest likely spot for information and head across the street, where the regulars often are sitting outside, sipping coffee and shooting the breeze.
“People ask, ‘Where’s the zoo’ or ‘Where’s village hall?'” said Larry Baron, one of the regular crew.
The village of Brookfield, coincidentally, has just started studying how to work wayfinding signage into the area near the Prairie Avenue train stop. But it’s going to take some time, maybe a year, before the village comes up with a solution.
“It’s fun to talk to people, but we thought, ‘Let’s put a sign out there,'” Baron said.
So they did.
Baron designed the sign, modeled after the kind of sign you’d see on an episode of “M*A*S*H” — with arrows pointing to destinations both near and far, along with information on just how far away they are.
The pole was made from PVC pipe, which has plastic and wood directions bolted to it. One of the signs helpfully point northeast to “ZOO: 1 mile.” Others pointed to Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. And, of course, one pointed directly north to “COFFEE: 100 feet.”
Helpfully, there’s a black iron pole driven into the ground near the north train platform, directly across the street from Loca Mocha.
“The iron pole along the north side of the tracks in front of the station had been there for quite some time,” said David Moreau, the former owner of Grumpy’s Café in Riverside who is another of the Mocha Loca morning crew. “It was a hazard, especially at night. Morning regulars from Loca Mocha thought that a creative sign based on the “M*A*S*H sign might be a solution.”
On the morning of Saturday, April 9, Baron and another regular waited for a train to pass through the crossing and then made their move.
Baron’s compatriot slipped the PVC over the top of the black pole, and the two went back across the street to see how long it’d last.
Turns out it lasted until the morning of Tuesday, April 12.
Baron said he thought the sign was “useful,” but the village didn’t think it was so hot. As a public works employee was loading the sign into his truck to take it away that morning, Baron ran across the street and asked to have it back. The employee let Baron take the sign, which is now in his backyard.
And to head off another reappearance of a sign, public works also removed the black iron pole that proved so attractive an anchor for the guerilla action.
“Brookfield Public Works did not think it was humorous or useful,” Baron said. “I guess we will have to wait maybe a year or more for their ‘official’ sign.”