Friday, February 25, 2011

Sign Language

At work we have a number of people who are responsible professionals, with an ethical and moral duty to help folk if they can, using their paramedic skills whether on or off an ambulance.

Most of the time, this involves going to where the people are hurt or unwell, and ministering to their needs there. Occasionally, they come to us, asking for help.

Obviously, the powers that be have noticed this, and have reacted by erecting a sign to welcome them:

Possibly the rudest sign since the burning bush spelt out Moses Is A Cock in sparks.*

It's not the idea I have a problem with. This is an ambulance station and there are drugs and patient records on site, albeit locked away, so a modicum of security is sensible but, really, the computers are ancient, the telly is tiny, the chairs are threadbare, the vehicles are locked, the blinds are broken and the charity box is empty.

The only thing of real value I can think of anywhere on the premises are my sandwiches, and should anyone amble force their way in and try to steal them, then I would fight to them to the death. Theirs, hopefully.

Morphine? Yeah, help yourself, I'll get you a cannula.

My butties? Oh, you don't know who you're messing with.

This sign seems a bit unnecessary and probably won't put off real evil-doers intent on nefarious deeds, as we are rather limited on security guards, towers, patrol dogs, CCTV and automatic intruder-tracking weaponry (other than an elderly stray cat called Feeble, which might give an interloper some sort of skin disease, should it lean on them).

For genuine visitors, a simple piece of text asking anyone to present their ID before gaining access would surely suffice.

But this sign is so . . . angry.

Is a thief going to go to all the trouble of ironing his mask and writing SWAG on his sack, sneak up to the door, put his hand out to open it and then suddenly notice the sign, causing him to have a change of heart because, ooh, that is a nasty picture, and there's a lot of red on it so, you know, they really mean it. I'd best be off.

No. All it does is be rude to anyone and everyone, no matter what they're here for.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOO access! Feck off! Shoo!  Hey! You there? Yeah, you with the haemorrhage? Are you authorised? No? Well gertcha then! Go on! There's nothing for you here."

The little jaunty blue NHS sign in the top right corner can't deflect attention from the rest of the design. A big, scary voodoo hand (possibly wearing a glove favoured by the more particular of murderers) reaches forward, looking as if it wants to rip your heart straight out of your ribcage, before showing it's quivering ventricles to you as punishment for coming too close to the front door when you're not bloody well authorised!.

But that's not the really annoying thing about the sign.

That would be the face.

Look at it. It's not even a proper face. Is that a hat? Or some sort of hair? Or really angry eyebrows maybe? And what's with the big circle in the middle. Is it shouting? Screaming?

I have seen a similar expression before, only not quite so tormented:

This would be a more effective sign, I think.

Actually, I may have hit on something here. Maybe all public warning signs should include a piece of classic art, so people are warned, entertained and educated, all at the same time.

I could see a Constable water scene to warn drivers of a ford ahead, or Dali's Persistence of Memory to show something might be hot. Perhaps Da Vinci's Last Supper could remind people coming out of a restaurant that this is a residential area so could they keep it down a bit, or Michelangelo's Creation of Adam on Do Not Touch signs. A William Turner jobby could be used to alert drivers to fog, or a John Waterhouse warning against serenading wispy girls near ponds.

All essential information, but delivered without threat or irritation.

I wonder what you could use MC Escher paintings for?

*Strangely omitted from the Book of Exodus.


  1. Escher would clearly apply in 'low or non-gravity' situations. Or maybe 'dangerously excessive mirrors ahead'?

  2. Please don't confuse the ants.

    is my .. umm .. suggestion

  3. The obvious choice of classical art for a no gambling zone:

  4. Eric - Or perhaps a Give Way to Yourself sign.

    Gary Baker - Pfft, ants are just wasps without any style. They deserve to be confused.

    SkylersDad - Or maybe an anthropomorphism free zone.

  5. There's a mall near me that would benefit from an Escher sign, just to warn folks that they will have to go up three floors and back down two, via elevator, stairs, escalator, and inclined conveyor belt if they want to get to the Starbucks that's totally visible from the entrance of the mall. If I had seen a sign like that the first time I went there, I never would have ventured past the gate and wasted three hours of my life trying to get a cup of coffee.

  6. if I accidentally get black paint all over my hand while I'm out tagging public property you guys wont help? For shame, for shame!

  7. Beta Dad - Sounds apt, although a friend of mine pointed out the following Escher painting I was unaware of:

    Tempo - So you're the infamous black-handed property tagger we've all heard so much about!

  8. I wonder what you could use MC Escher paintings for?

    Information Desk

  9. GTChristie - Sounds reasonable. Possibly information overload desk though.

  10. I'd probably use the paintings to sum up our reactions at work about what's happening to public services. Or is that too political?

  11. Mdme DeF - Ooh, I like that. Or maybe Dante's Inferno might work as well?

  12. Robert Wilson, in one (or more) of his wonderfully satirically paranoid novels, has a character who puts up warning signs that look like they've been written by the management. While not overtly offensive, they are subtly insulting, and the character's aim is to use these signs as subliminal spurs that will eventually incite the public to rebel against authority.

    Too bad that in reality it's just really stupid management. (Oddly enough, I just wrote about the annoyance of companies doing things "for my convenience" that are anything but.)

  13. I always thought the little statue of the man nailed to the cross was a good way of threatening people not to attend church.

  14. Frank - I think management are perfectly capable of pissing off the proles on their own in reality!

    Trooper Thorn - I don't like to pass comment on the strange idols of zombie-worshipping cults. Er . . .

  15. That face looks like an angry Rhesus monkey. The kind that got the cold wire monkey mother and not the warm fuzzy one with a terrycloth towel wrapped around it.

  16. The Escher picture of the reflection where he is holding the mirrored sphere in his hand: Road Sign -> Lens Store - Exit 47 Km


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