Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign


This sign appeared a week or so ago at our local WalMart. I dutifully read it, and then promptly ignored it because it didn’t apply to me. But the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me.

I still think a lot about the things we saw in Italy and Greece on our trip last month. So many things that are so different from here. Not better, not worse, just different. The first thing that struck me was the amazing lack of signage. I saw one sign about not swimming in the Grand Canal. I saw no signs about being careful not to fall into the water. There were no guard rails, and no signs warning parents to hold their children’s hands as they walked along the waterfront. There were no signs warning people how deep the canal was (15 feet average). There didn’t seem to be rules prohibiting sidewalk cafes from seating patrons at the water’s edge, no signs warning people not to litter, or not to feed the pigeons in St. Mark’s Square.

Even though there were no signs, the city remained clean and relatively pigeon-free. Nobody fell into the lagoon while we were there. People didn’t need to be told not to leave their baby in the boat while they dashed into WalMart. It seems that in Italy anyway, common sense rules.

Not once did I see any kind of a sign about boating right-of-ways. I would assume that people who boat in the lagoon are aware of the rules, but to watch them, you would also assume that there are no rules.  There was a fatal crash between a gondola and a vaporetto in August, but I don’t think any kind of a sign would have prevented it.


It’s true that some signs are simply ridiculous. Some signs serve a good purpose, but I don’t need to be told not to drop grapes on the floor in a grocery store because people might slip on them. Do we need to be told to lock our doors and call the police if we see suspicious activity? Do we need to be told that this bag of kitty litter is safe to use around pets?


Have we become dependent on signage? If we don’t see a sign telling us not to do something, does that mean we can go ahead and try it? If we try it and break an arm or get a rash, who can we sue for not warning us what might happen? Some people do leave their small children in the car, maybe because nobody ever told them otherwise.  WalMart feels the need to post a sign telling them not to do this.


Somebody felt the need to tell me that if I don’t pay attention to my driving, bad things might happen. Well, sometimes they do, especially if you don’t read the sign.

thank you for driving safely

I guess that guy just saw one too many signs. They become just like wallpaper after a while.

There are places where I appreciate a sign. When we were in Greece, wandering aimlessly with a map looking for the museums and other sights, a sign would have been very much appreciated. There is a happy medium somewhere out there.

I just think it’s sad that someone felt the need to post a sign reminding parents to retrieve the baby from the car seat before they shop. That feels like a literal definition of a nanny state.


One thought on “Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

  1. I think we have so many signs, partly because of our nanny state, but also because the U.S. is sue happy. We seem to be a much more litigious country than any other. So the signs are supposed to deflect responsibility so that somebody cannot sue because they did not think.

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