We all have that friend who, no matter how cold it is, says they’ve suffered worse, this is nothing, and you should really stop complaining.
In Yellowknife, that friend is the electronic sign outside YK Centre Mall. Each winter, the sign resolutely refuses to admit it’s as cold as you think it is.
Monday brought the perfect example.
With the city under an extreme cold warning – and drivers in passing vehicles seeing -37C on their dashboards – the sign defiantly proclaimed: “-31C.”
Is the sign gaslighting you about the temperature? Yes, yes it is, says senior property manager Brian Maule, whose life’s mission is now to fix it.
“We’re hovering in the minus-30s, right? It seems like it’s warmer by the sign than it really is,” said Maule. “The sign has a temperature sensor, just like a vehicle dashboard, but it’s difficult to adjust.”
Acknowledging that tourists gathering beneath the sign for photos are being robbed of precious degrees in bragging rights, Maule told Cabin Radio he would do battle with the sign immediately following an interview on Monday.
“Now that we’re having this conversation, that’s the next thing I’m going to do today,” he said.
“Like everything in this world, it’s an old sign. Yellowknife being Yellowknife, managers come and go,” Maule continued, himself starting his second year as Northview’s property manager for the building.
“This sign? Whatever came with it when it was purchased is long gone. I had to find an owner’s manual on the internet. But I found one, and now I can get at it.”
Maule isn’t entirely sure why the temperature sensor is wrong – he speculates it may be to do with the sign’s black paint – but he’s convinced things need to change.
“I do think it has to come down three or four degrees,” he said.
“Believe me, this is the type of thing… I don’t obsess over it, but it is not far from my thinking on a daily basis.”
Oddly for what is, in the grand scheme of things, a relatively small electronic display, the sign has been one of the city’s most-photographed tourist attractions for years.
“I’ve got a book here, a Yellowknife touristy type book – I bought it at the airport gift shop, it’s all cartoons,” said Maule, possibly referring to this book by John Henderson. “And in the book, there’s a drawing of the sign and somebody standing underneath it. So it’s an iconic thing for Yellowknife.”
Maule said he had already changed the display to ensure it paused on the temperature for longer – just over five seconds – in order to give tourists more time for photos.
He did, however, have one further gripe about the sign. A scroll through the electronic display’s list of preloaded images turned up one astonishing absence.
“There is no Santa Claus in the list,” said a dismayed Maule. “How do you create a sign with images without a Santa Claus on it? It’s the only time of year you really want an image on that sign!”