Normative Signs: The Poetry of "Ought"

In which the author finds beauty in how people tell other people what to do.

Do Not Open Door

do_not_open_door_2As an airline passenger, I found this one generated more questions than it answered. It’s on the door of a large Air Canada jet (a 767, I think, but I could be wrong).

Just who is this aimed at? Under what conditions would I (or anyone) be reading this sign, from outside, while the red light is flashing? Is there some chance that someone qualified to be standing outside this door, while the light is flashing, someone with an understanding of how to open the door, wouldn’t also know when not to do so?

I’m sure there are perfectly reasonable answers to those questions. But as someone boarding a plane about to soar above the Pacific ocean, I gotta say I found them somewhat unsettling.


Golf Carts Only

golf_carts_only_2At the edge of a golf course, in Hawaii.

I can imagine several reasons for this sign. One is safety — if golfers are whipping around in motorized carts, perhaps pedestrians are safer staying away. It may also be a way of keeping tourists off the golf course generally; the course is next to a long beach-walk that runs for a couple of kilometres through several beachfront hotel properties. The little bridge in the picture below is an attractive place to stand and take pictures, which could make tourists an obstruction to golfers trying to drive across the bridge.

Interesting, though, in an age in which motorized methods of getting around are generally looked down upon as being less environmentally friendly.


Watch for Children

watch_for_childrenThis is a fun juxtaposition of normative signs. It has the appearance (but only the appearance) of irony, or contradiction, or something. On the one hand, drivers are told to watch for children. On the other hand, kids are forbidden from doing the things that would have them in drivers’ way in the first place.

Of course, both signs are probably the result of the same kids vs. cars turf war, a conflict which can be resolved in at least 2 ways, apparently.