This photo just sparks so much thought for me. The clear evidence that someone has used this sign to climb the fence amuses me to no end. It also makes me think of passive aggressive post-it notes and that song Signs by Five Man Electrical Band.
Here’s a link to that song in case you’d like a little music to accompany your reading today:
At some point in our history, we decided as a society that the most effective way to inform the public at large was a sign. In some ways, they can be really effective, my first thought to that point being road signs. However, somewhere along the way, between advertising and parking postings and everything else we’ve just become overwhelmed with messages on the daily.
Just look at this sign. Overgrown to the point that I had to get all up in there. I mean I wouldn’t have even noticed the sign if I hadn’t already been poking around to take pictures. You can’t even see in here to tell if someone is climbing the fence and this park is surrounded by residential, hiding it from street view. So who exactly is going to stop someone from climbing these fences? Does it speak something to our culture that when I see the no smoking signs on campus I effectively think that there’s no one around to stop me? I go to the smoke pit anyway because fines have a way of terrifying a debt-soaked student, but that’s not the point.
I once had a roommate that liked to leave post-its on the kitchen cabinets. Half the time it was nit-picky little things that didn’t even matter like don’t use the french press to make coffee… WHAT? Does she know that’s what french presses are for? I don’t mean to come off as the inconsiderate roommate. At first, I tried to have consideration for my roomie and her post-its. After a point… when there’s a new one there every day, you just stop looking.
So how effective are signs, really? That sign next to the triage in the ER that says “Have your health card and medication ready” doesn’t guarantee that everyone is going to be prepared. Which signs do we listen to and which ones do we ignore? Is there not a certain thrill that comes with disobeying a sign? I’m not a rule breaker and I like to follow procedure but with so many messages hitting our eyeballs in a day, we couldn’t possibly obey them all, could we?
Do signs mean we need fewer people to enforce the rules or do we now need people to enforce the sign? And then there’s always the “can’t you read the sign” laziness that just strips away human decency. Yes, it is a totally reasonable thing for someone to not notice a message on the wall due to so much visual noise, don’t be a jerk about it.
Signs are impersonal. Yes, they are absolutely effective in certain circumstances, but they are so common that they’ve transcended a boundary. One where people now think it’s OK to throw up hastily written, borderline rude notes about every little thing and just leave them everywhere instead of talking things out amongst ourselves. I’m sure that there’s a period in human history where this would have been considered odd. With the number of messages hitting our faces today I can understand how we got here. Growing up in a world like that, one would think it’s natural.