Thursday, September 15, 2011

Can't You Read The Sign?

I went to visit my brother in hospital yesterday evening with my son and my mother. I parked in the closest hospital parkade so it would be easier for my 81 year old mother. It was one of those parkades where you take your ticket along and pay at a pay station prior to returning to your vehicle and leaving. The paid ticket opens the gate to let you out of the parkade. There are numerous signs informing people to pay at a pay station because it is not possible to pay at the gate.

We visited; I paid at the pay station; we got into the car and headed to the exit. When we got there only one exit lane was open and there was a large new 1/2 ton truck at the automated gate control box which takes the paid tickets and opens the gate. The young lady driving the truck got out of the vehicle and seemed confused. She finally called out to me and asked how to pay for parking. When I told her she needed to pay at a pay station she angrily asked why she hadn't been informed of this beforehand. My first thought was, "how did she miss all the signs?"

By this time there were another two cars parked behind us. We all had to back up to allow this young lady to back her truck out of the way and then go pay for her parking. On the drive home we talked about what we had just seen. We wondered why she hadn't seen the signs explaining the process of paying for parking. Was she oblivious to everything around her? Was she incredibly unobservant? Had she not used this parking system before? Was she unfamiliar with this process because she was from out of town? Maybe she was from a rural community and for this reason was anxious about driving in the city. Maybe the many different signs overwhelmed her and she missed the parking instructions. Maybe she was from a very remote first nations community and too much in the city was foreign to her for her to know to look for instructions on how the parking worked.

Two evenings ago we were standing at a downtown bus stop on our way home from a concert at the MTS Center. All of a sudden there were numerous car horns blaring. We looked up and saw a vehicle blocking traffic as the driver waited to make a left turn right in front of a 'No Left Turn' sign. Could this person not read the sign? Did they not see it? Did they see the sign and intentionally ignore it? It was dark. Did the sign get lost in the many signs and lights on Portage Avenue? Was this another person new to the city that was overwhelmed by all the traffic, lights and signs?

There are so many signs and lights surrounding us. Has it gotten to be too much?

About a week ago Heidi and I were driving home in the dark and went past an intersection attended by two or three emergency vehicles. There were so many flashing red lights that it was difficult to spot the red traffic lights. As the driver, I found it a little disorienting.

We are in the middle of another election and it's getting difficult go few hundred feet without seeing at least one campaign sign. They're on people's lawns, on fences, in windows of homes and businesses. Add in garage and yard sale signs on boulevards and medians; panhandlers holding up handmade signs on the medians at major intersections, billboards, traffic signs, direction signs, the occasional business mascot dancing around waving a sign on the side of the street, lighted signs, mobile signs, billboards on buses, advertising signs on taxi rooftops, etc and it's not surprising that a person can either miss a sign or become dangerously distracted.

Yesterday a business just 2 blocks from where we live had their application to have a large billboard on their roof replaced with an electronic billboard turned down by a city council committee. Many residents in the area objected to the electronic billboard. For this time at least the protest against more light and sign pollution succeeded.

All this stuff with signs reminds me of a 1971 hit by Five Man Electrical Band.


Most of all I remember the chorus.

Sign, sign.
Everywhere a sign.
Blockin' out the scenery.
Breakin' my mind.
Do this. Don't do that.
Can't you read the sign?

Given the increasing proliferation of signs it's obvious that little protest ditty was rather ineffective.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Horst!

    Fun -- love the song.