Normative Signs: The Poetry of "Ought"

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

Month: May, 2015

Dissertation on Emergency Plumbing

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This rather thorough how-to, aimed at amateur plumbers apparently, is posted in the men’s room at the Faculty Club at Harvard.
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Thanks to Jacob Levy for the photo.

Regulatory Overload at the Condo

This sign, posted at a condo in Toronto, seems likely to result in regulation fatigue. I wonder if they’ve considered holding a training seminar of some sort?

Don’t Bang the Gate

dont_bangThis sign is posted outside a large cathedral in Glasgow. Wonderfully terse (you can almost picture the grumpy cleric shaking tut-tutting the noisy gate-closer).

For some reason the street number immediately made me think of the famous Studio 54… a venue that had plenty of people clamouring at the gate, and is reputed to have seen its fair share of “banging.”

Thanks to Yoni Freedhoff for sending me the photo.

Someone Loves You

someone_loves_you_2This sign was taken on the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto. Very nice emotional appeal.

someone_loves_you.jpgThanks to Nick Giovanelli for the picture.

Don’t Use Stairs?!

dont_use_stairsIn an era in which most public authorities are trying to promote an active lifestyle by encouraging people to use the stairs, the sign shown here (from Toronto’s Union Station) is, at first glance, rather jarring.

Of course, context matters — the sign makes a lot more sense once you realize that it’s posted at the bottom of an escalator, one that leads down from the train platform to the arrivals waiting area.

No Guns at University

No_weapons_creightonI spotted this sign on a recent visit to Creighton University, in Omaha. Jarring, for a Canadian, since in Canada it goes without saying that you’re not allowed to carry a handgun onto a university campus, or just about anywhere else for that matter.

The sign is also an interesting indicator of a conflict between regulatory authorities (in fact, the last line of the sign says so specifically). The state of Nebraska does issue concealed-carry permits. But Creighton is effectively saying that on their property, guns aren’t welcome, regardless of what the state says.

Also shocking to a Canadian: the no-gun rule is, you know, just another rule — nestled in amongst signs forbidding smoking and telling you where to park.

The Reward for Carelessness

Peggys_CoveThe reward for carelessness? Injury and death. In this case, it’s no exaggeration. This photo was taken at Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, in Nova Scotia. And people have been swept out to sea by the waves, here, and perished.

But the wording of the sign is so lovely. Read it out loud. You almost can’t avoid saying it in whatever you conceive to be the stereotypical sea captain’s voice.

Thanks to Brandon for the photo.