I particularly like Steve Martin in The Man with Two Brains. It’s one of my favorite movies. I like the part when Martin’s character (Dr. Hfuhruhurr) is considering marriage to Kathleen Turner’s gold-digging character and asks the portrait of his dead wife, “Will you send me a sign that you approve of this marriage?”
There’s a low moan and he asks again, “Just any sign?” The moan gets louder and the windows start rattling. Deaf to the sound, he says, “I just want to know you approve. A small sign? Just to let me know you are at peace with the wedding.”
In the end, the windows are opening and shutting, the moan has become a banshee wail, and pictures are flying off the wall and Martin is oblivious to it all. He finally says, “Since you aren’t sending me a sign, I’m going to assume that you approve,” and he walks out of the room.
I’m not that bad about ignoring warning signs, but I do tend to minimize. There’s a part in the Big Book of AA that says we alkies could stop drinking or die an alcoholic death. The joke around the rooms is that most of us have thought, “How bad could that death thing be anyway?”
When I started smoking cigarettes, the warning label on a pack of cigarettes stated “Warning: The Surgeon General Has Determined that Cigarette Smoking is Dangerous to Your Health.” That didn’t stop me from smoking.
The warning was beefed up by the time Bob, who didn’t start smoking until age 40, began puffing. “SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.” Much more official and still not likely to deter a determined smoker.
The warnings on the E.U. cig packs are much more dire and appeal to the smoker’s vanity.
- Smoking can cause a slow and painful death
- Get help to stop smoking: Phone number of local hotline
- Smoking may reduce the blood flow and cause impotence
- Smoking causes ageing of the skin
- Smoking can damage the sperm and decreases fertility
- Smoke contains benzene, nitrosamines, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide.
Since the 10 countries that have the highest rate of cigarette consumption per capita are all in the E.U., the warnings aren’t that effective either. (How bad could that impotence, infertility, leathery skin, and slow and painful death be anyway?)
Traffic warning signs are sometimes confusing to me. I think they are designed to be. Whoever is in charge of Warning Sign World is diabolical.
Traffic signs aren’t new. The Romans had mile markers. Later, countries used stone or wooden signs to give directions to travellers. When bicycles became a common mode of travel, cycling clubs erected signs that warned of potential hazards ahead rather than merely giving distance or directions to places.
By the time cars came along, the need for a standardized sign system was recognized. One of the first modern-day road sign systems was devised by the Italian Touring Club in 1895. By 1900, a Congress of the International League of Touring Organizations in Paris was considering proposals for standardization of road signage.
Both Britain and the United States developed their own road signage systems. The UK adopted a version of the European road signs in 1964 and U.S. signage began using some symbols and graphics mixed in with English.
Sometimes I think T.M.I. applies to traffic signs. I’ve wanted to back up and take another look at a sign I’ve passed. Do you really think they mean to say that?
I like signs that say what they mean. How can you mis-read “Dead End?” Plain, succinct. There’s no question that you’ve hit the end of the road when you see that sign. Or maybe there’s a short cut on the other side of those trees.