May 2, 2007

Reading the Signs

I drove to a client’s house this morning and encountered an unusual number of curious signs.

A major intersection is just over a mile from my house. Invariably, I encounter a line of cars there awaiting a change of the traffic signal. (Protected left turns from four directions lengthen the signal cycle time.) Today, I saw a new sign as I approached the inevitable stopped vehicles. The large, diamond-shaped orange sign said, simply, “BUMP.” A question immediately came to mind: Was the legend on the sign a noun or a verb? As it happens, the road I was about to cross is being resurfaced and recently had been milled, making it lower than the road I was driving on.

A bit farther along, I came to another intersection, just before which I saw signage that said “END SPEED LIMIT 35.” As the car passed that signpost, I noticed similar signage on the other side of the intersection announcing “BEGIN SPEED LIMIT 35.” What, I wondered, was the speed limit on the 500 or so feet of roadway between the two signs.

The next odd sign I encountered was one I have been seeing with increasing frequency. It is a tall, narrow sign placed in the center of the roadway at pedestrian crosswalks. “Reading” from top to bottom, the sign says “STATE LAW,” followed by a triangular yield sign, the word “TO,” a stylized figure of a pedestrian, and the words “WITHIN CROSSWALK.” By now, I know what the sign means, but, on encountering it for the first time, it seems more like a puzzle to be solved quickly as one is driving past, a kind of traffic rebus dreamed up by a Chinese engineer who does not have a full grasp of idiomatic English. Crosswalks seem to inspire this sort of thing, or am I the only person who finds the sequence of street markings "“PED,” “X,” “ING” just before crosswalks annoying?

Finally, I want to mention a sign I did not actually see on my car trip today, but which I did see while taking a walk this afternoon. In the window of a barber shop near my house—yes, it really is an old-fashioned barber shop, as indicated by the big “BARBER SHOP” sign overhead—there is a sign indicating when the establishment is open. The sign reads as follows:

Shop Hours
Wed., Fri., Sat.
9:00 AM ’til Closing
4:00 PM ’til Closing

If a customer arrives at 4 o’clock on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, what is the probability of being able to get a haircut? I have no idea what the answer is.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Anonymous comments are not allowed. Gratuitous profanity or libelous statements will be removed. Comments will also be removed that include gratuitous links to commercial Web sites. Please stay on topic.