Normative Signs: The Poetry of "Ought"

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

Month: June, 2014

No Big People (Without Little People)

No_big_people2This one is rather awkward.

This sign is posted in the Admiral’s Club at terminal D of Dallas Fort Worth airport. It’s posted on the door of the “Family Lounge,” an area where parents can take their small children to relax, play, whatever. The sign is presumably intended to remind people that if you don’t have a kid with you, you shouldn’t be hanging around this room. It is intended, in other words, as a pedophile deterrent.

A couple of questions come to mind:

What creepy behaviour led to someone thinking or realizing that a sign of this sort was necessary? Signs like this always have a history. (On second thought, I don’t want to know.)

Second, what was the meeting like? You know, the meeting at which the exact look-and-wording of the new sign was debated. What’s the right way to signal that you don’t want creeps leering at the kids? Interesting (and not surprising) that rather than being blunt, they opted for being cutesy. Which is, in itself, slightly creepy.

Thanks to Wayne for the photo.

Parking for Mothers or Parents?

parental_parking2I swear it’s coincidental that I’m posting this on Father’s Day.

And this is not a lame “men’s rights” blog entry. I’m genuinely curious about whether this sign really is intended to single out women with babies, or is it more generally for anyone with a young child. Is the gendered sign to be taken literally? Or is a dad with an infant allowed to park there?

The sign is posted in a grocery store parking lot.

I’m pretty sure this sign isn’t legally binding, anyway. But would (say) a private security guard tell a man with a baby (or male gay couple with a baby) to move out of this space? Would a fellow customer give a man with a baby a dirty look for parking in a women-with-babies parking spot? Hopefully not. Doing so would imply an assumption that — well, what? That women are the ‘weaker sex,’ and only they need special parking spots?

Again, my point here is not at all that the sign might be discriminatory, though I suppose that might be true. I’m curious instead whether the message is narrow (intentionally or not) or whether a female figure with a baby carriage should now be taken as a placeholder for any parent with an infant?

Ubiquitous Danger Overhead

overhead_lines2This sign seems radically under-informative to me.

Aren’t there overhead powerlines just about everywhere? And aren’t they generally safe, so long as you don’t do something stupid like climbing a pole without proper gear and training?

And if you do something stupid like that, aren’t power lines always dangerous? So, what makes this situation/location special, such that it warrants a warning sign? There’s no evidence here of a special danger — no dangling powerlines. Perhaps (given the wooded location) the danger is to workers cutting / trimming trees. But then, why not say so? Besides, such workers are typically hyper-aware of such dangers.

The sign is posted on a trail adjacent to a suburb on the edges of Ottawa.

Just — as in ONLY — for a Change

change_tableThis sign is posted in a unisex washroom at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. It clearly forbids any deviant uses of the adjacent infant-changing table. But frankly, I have no idea what kinds of other uses it’s got in mind. I mean, what, have people been using it as a dining table? I would never have thought of using a changing table for something else — at least not until this sign suggested that there might be other uses.

Notice the range of normative ‘tones,’ here. There’s an indication (in the first sentence) of what the table is intended for, which is one way of subtly discouraging deviant behaviour. Then there’s the firm injunction, in bold type. Then there’s the final nod towards the values of community and family.


Massive Passive Aggression

This is one of the more passive-aggressive normative signs I’ve ever seen. Truly beautiful.

It’s posted at a store called Teatro Verde in Toronto.

It almost takes passive aggression to a new level. Almost effusively polite, but quite clearly laying down the law.

You can almost hear it in your head: “Kids? Why yes we LOVE kids. As long as they’re on a leash. And oh, look! You’ve got ice cream. How lovely. You really, really should enjoy the sun out on the sidewalk while you finish that. No, please, we insist.
Thanks to Nancy Walton for ignoring this sign’s final rule in order to snap this photo.

No Fishing, You Fishers

Klingers_Lake_2Position in life, as they say, is everything.

This “No Fishing” sign is posted at Klinger’s Lake in Michigan. In addition to being the quintessential rustic “No Fishing” sign, this sign is also charmingly off-target.

It is apparently intended to forbid fishing from the dock. But as you can see below, it is much better positioned to broadcast its message at the entire lake, and at passing boats — from which fishing is definitely not at all prohibited.

Thanks to Abe Schwab for the photo.