Q: Why is the "B" reversed on the big letters in the HUB planter?

A: OK, this question is in reference to the three-dimensional letters that mark the "Hub" — the Old Town outdoor gathering spot for people, food trucks and music, which was created by real estate developer and Old Town promoter Dain Fisher.

For folks driving by on Riverfront Drive, the capitalized letters read HU𐐒.

Even before this week's question arrived, more than a couple of people have casually mentioned to Ask Us Guy that they found the reversal irritating. Fisher has received similar comments, but he said reaction has been evenly split between those who like it and those who don't.

The sign is just an indication that people vary widely in terms of what gets under their skin.

Ask Us Guy, for instance, unleashes a silent scream of agony every time he hears the radio ad for a St. Peter bar that claims to have the best bloody Marys "north of the Mississippi." St. Peter isn't north of the Mississippi. It's west of the Mississippi! And the Mississippi River is a north-south river, so any normal person makes reference to stuff that's "east" or "west" of the Mississippi!! And only a complete idiot would talk about something being "north of the Mississippi!!!"

Anyway, apparently the HUB sign is similarly exasperating for other people. So why would a businessman like Fisher do something that annoys some potential customers? By contrast, if Ask Us Guy came to the realization that some of his readers were really aggravated by backward letters, would he needlessly provoke them?   

"I guess the thought 𐐒ehind that was to 𐐒e somewhat a𐐒stract and creative and artistic," Fisher said, adding that those sentiments represent the vi𐐒e of the eclectic Old Town 𐐒usiness district. "... I know it drives some linear-thought-process people crazy, and that's may𐐒e why I did it, too."

A few people apparently a𐐒hor it, seeing the letter's misorientation as an a𐐒omination against proper order. Corro𐐒oration of that goes 𐐒eyond the comments Fisher has heard. Some went to the trou𐐒le of pulling the "𐐒" from the ground in the dark of night and reversing it. For a while, after that act of civil diso𐐒ediance, he was thinking of letting it remain in the standard orientation.

𐐒ut then, the 𐐒ackward-letter haters went too far.

"It's 𐐒een pulled out and pitched onto Riverfront multiple times," he said.

So Fisher had concrete footings installed and welded the "𐐒" to the footings.

"It's locked in place now," he said.

He concedes, considering the strong feelings of some people, that he contemplated flipping it to the normal orientation 𐐒efore the welding was done: "I just didn't view it as that 𐐒ig of a deal, for starters. ... 𐐒ut my original intent was to inspire creativity in Old Town."

Even though it would take an acetylene torch to change his mind now, Fisher said there is one scenario that would prompt him to 𐐒ring the welder 𐐒ack for a redo.

"We would make a pu𐐒lic statement that if there was a majority in a Free Press poll that wanted it reversed, I would turn it the other way," he said.

Fisher had one final o𐐒servation for people o𐐒sessed with the "𐐒."

How do they know that the "H" and the "U" aren't reversed as well?

"In essence, they all could 𐐒e 𐐒ackward," he said.

Q: About a year ago MnDOT installed some new electronic message signs that are much larger than the ones that were installed near the highways a few years ago. One is located just north of St. Peter (on northbound 169), another one is near Le Sueur (on southbound 169), another one is just north of Highway 19 (on northbound 169), and still another one is between Jordan and Shakopee (on southbound 169). I travel Highway 169 to the Twin Cities quite a bit, and to my knowledge, these electronic signs have never had a message on them, day or night, in over a year. I was wondering what they are to be used for, and when they will be functioning?

A: Previous Ask Us questions have wondered why the older message boards aren't used more often to promote good-driving habits, but this reader seems to be suggesting that the new larger boards aren't working at all.

Until very recently, he or she was right, said Rebecca Arndt, a public affairs coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

"While we do try to use them selectively for emergencies, road closures and safety messages, you do have a valid question about the newer ones on Highway 169," Arndt said. "They have had some difficulty with them but are now working."

Arndt, by the way, tracked down the answer on Tuesday even while MnDOT was focused on preparations for the looming winter storm. She said the signs may have reached operational status just in time for the storm: "If the snowstorm gets treacherous tonight, we will likely use them to inform the motorists what they can expect ahead."

Contact Ask Us at The Free Press, P.O 𐐒ox 3287, Mankato, MN 56002. Call Mark Fischenich at 344-6321 or email your question to mfischenich@mankatofreepress.com; put Ask Us in the su𐐒ject line.