Why I don't read the effin' things anymoreI visited the beach the other day. The sky was dark, and the wind thrashed about as I sat on the sea wall and watched the waves knock the crap out of the surfers. I had just lit my first Romeo mini cigar when a man walked by with his young daughter. When he approached, he glared at my smoke and barked, “Can't you read the sign?! It says, ‘No Smoking!'”
OK, first of all, Mr. Man Walking with Daughter, suck my nuts. Sign or no sign, when you can't smoke a mini at the beach on a stormy day with the waves knocking the crap out of surfers, that's when you know that this no-smoking witch hunt has gotten way out of hand.
But secondly, what sign? I didn't see any effin' sign. With the exception of the traffic variety, I stopped reading those things a long time ago.
I know a lot of people hate those of us who don't read and obey signs, especially the people who make them. But it's come to the point now that every effin' thing that has a surface has to have an effin' sign on it. They've got signs on walls, signs on windows and signs on doors. They've got signs on roofs, signs on floors and signs on yards. They've got signs on ugly, towering billboards made for no other reason than to put a sign where no surface space had previously existed to put a sign on. They've got special planes that write goddamn signs right onto the goddamn sky. They've got signs on busses, benches, shoes, shirts, hats, pants, towels, notebooks, pens and pencils. Nowadays they can even put signs on kernels of rice.
Et tu, kernels of rice?!!!!
I know some signs are for our benefit, but mostly the signs of the world are no different than the spam in my inbox. Hundreds of times a day, thousands of times a month, millions of times a year, we've got all this spam blasting our brains, and only once in a great while do you ever read one that is worth the effort. Is it any wonder I never mind signs anymore?
Especially because a lot of them are downright nasty. You ever notice this phenomenon? Rude signage? It's rampant. For example, at a nearby gym, there's a placard containing a short list of rules: “No towel = no workout!”Jesus, who wrote that, the effin' Soup Nazi!? And just in case the sign wasn't curt enough, they threw in an exclamation point, which is equivalent to raising your voice, which makes me wonder why this particular sign is yelling at me.
If I had written that sign it would've said: “Clean towel required. Thank you. —The Management,” because that's the way to make a sign. Be concise, polite and firm, and hold the 'tude, dude.
Here's a poster that's hanging on the front door of a diner I frequent. You've seen it before. It says, “No shoes, no shirt, no service!!” You'll note that this sign uses two exclamation points and is italicized, which, I guess, means they are yelling really, really, really loudly.
You know what I say to a sign like that? I say, “Ef you, sign! I get all the effin' attitude I need from living people I actually effin' know. I don't need it from no inanimate effin' object.” Besides, why are you shouting at me? I'm not the one who came into your business sans shoes and shirt. I'm always fully clothed. You might think that the sign is only yelling at the shoeless and shirtless crowd, but it's really yelling at anyone who looks at it. And what's the point in being rude to the shoeless, shirtless crew anyway? A sign like that says, “We don't like your kind coming around here, so scram, boy!” Which isn't really a smart way to greet potential customers.
If I had written that sign, it would say, “Shoes and shirt required, please—but come back and visit us next time, dudes!”
For crying out loud, what's so hard about being cool? It's not like a gang of shoeless delinquents are going to walk through the door, see my sign and say, “What's this? Only one exclamation point!? Hunker down, boys, we're eating here!”
Not to psychobabblize the situation, but I think all this nasty signage says something profound about the frazzled state of the American shopkeep. It's as though he's no longer able to contain his contempt—for his customers, his job and his own miserable life—so it all burbles out of his signage.
Take this missive that hung over the register in a bar in Clairemont that I frequented back in the day, when I used to read signs. It said, “NO AMEX!!! Please don't ask!”
I saw it and thought, Wow, the person who wrote that must've really been driven to the edge with all the Amex-asking that must've been going on at his or her bar. I can only imagine what a horrible nightmare it must have been.
Do note that this sign has four exclamation points, the words “NO AMEX” written in capital letters and the “Please don't ask” part in italics, which means they are really—really, really, really—really for real: “No, seriously people, we mean it this time. We don't take American Express and you best not ask or we'll drop another exclamation point on your ass!”
To which I say, “Whoa now. Sorry, pal, didn't mean to confound you with a question and all.”
What the heck is that? “NO AMEX!!! Please don't ask!”? As if anyone actually was going to read it and still ask, “Hey, do ya take Amex?”
Of course not. The only people who're still going to ask if you take Amex are people like me, who will never even read the thing no matter how many exclams and itals you put on it, because we gave up reading signs a long time ago—thanks in part to snotty ones like yours. Write to email@example.com! Copy firstname.lastname@example.org!! YOU MUST VISIT www.edwindecker.com, ass-monkey!!!