During my adult life I have traveled fairly extensively and wherever I go, I take photos of posters, signage, and graffiti that show the whimsy and idiosyncratic nature of public communication. Here are a few photos from my collection.
Posted in the London subway (called the Tube by the locals), in June 1993:
I know the Brits had the the English language before we Americans got involved, but it is difficult to agree with the statement that this poster can promise anything on its own.
Also seen in the London Tube, June 1993:
Not only do the English authorities let you know what they want you to do, they tell you why you should follow their directive as well. Beware pigeons, you have been warned.
A poster from an exhibit in the Museum of London, June 1993:
The British suffragettes were not only tough, strong, resilient, and dedicated to winning the vote for English women, but they also did all this with great flair, according to the Purple, White and Green exhibit at the Museum of London.
Photographed at a Knoxville, Tennessee, furniture store, possibly 2011:
Yes, Norma Jeane Baker would probably never have become Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe if she had followed the expected behavior of women in the 1940s and 1950s. There is that saying about breaking eggs to get an omelet.
Observed in St. Martin, an island in the Caribbean, 2006:
This is one of my all-time favorite photos of serendipitous signage. My husband Kurt and I were taking one of our few real vacations–as opposed to him working in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Central America, South America, or Africa and me coming along with him on the business trip. We were driving through the French side of St. Martin (one side of the island is French, the other side is Dutch) when I saw this building and told Kurt we simply must get this photo. He drove back and snapped this shot, and I must say that there is a great deal of truth here. Happiness is very much a self-service proposition. You must bring your own peace of mind to the rodeo because expecting other people to make you happy is an appointment with despair.
Posted in Costa Rica in March 2007:
Costa Rica is a country of great natural beauty that is known for protecting its wildlife and ecological diversity. It also takes seriously its responsibility to keep its waiters safe when they are crossing a road to serve food. Yes, this sign really was posted beside a road in Costa Rica.
Posted in Costa Rica in 2007:
Costa Rica warns drivers to slow down for monkeys, dogs/wolves(?), and children at a road crossing.
Observed at the Knoxville Zoo, 2015:
Ok, people with diarrhea, out of the splash area! Really? This was a problem at the Knoxville Zoo? Wow.
Posted in South Knoxville, probably 2015:
We are putting it out there, people. Not just at Halloween, but year round, this parking place is reserved for a very special woman–and her broom. And her toad.
Posted in Downtown Knoxville:
Spelling was not one of the strong points for the city government official who commissioned this sign. It is centeral to our detour mission to move you on your way, Knoxville drivers.
Uncovered after my podiatrist removed the bandages from my foot surgery in July 2016:
My podiatrist had quite a sense of humor.
Observed in a retail shop in 2016:
Whatever you are choosing–whether it be a washer and dryer, pair of shoes, cell phone, partner in life, or political candidate–choose the best you can can possible afford, and you will not go wrong.
Posted on a Seattle trash can in September 2016:
They were deadly serious about the problem of domestic garbage being mixed with park litter in Seattle. Probably a $2,000 fine would deter most people.
Displayed in a Seattle bookstore in September 2016:
As Donald Trump was running for president in the fall of 2016, someone at this Seattle bookstore gave his or her interpretation of how this book should have been titled.
Seen on the wall of a Seattle bookstore, September 2016:
I recognized a few of these authors’ faces (such as Maya Angelou, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Betty Friedan, Ernest Hemingway, and Sylvia Plath, and maybe J.D. Salinger), but not many. As an avid reader, I would have thought I’d know more of them! How many can you name?
Painted on the side of a Lexington, Kentucky, book and coffee shop, in September 2017:
This sign is, perhaps, even more relevant to our present day struggles in June 2020 than it was in 2017. However, the need to unlearn fear and hate has probably been an issue throughout human history. The antidote? Hope and love, two emotions that have been in short supply in our public discourse this year.
Posted outside the Boone Tavern, Hotel, and Restaurant at Berea College, Berea, Kentucky, and seen in 2017:
Plants need to breathe–and so do humans.
Seen in a Salt Lake City, Utah, women’s clothing store:
Yes, the great actress, style icon, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and all-around beautiful person (inside and out) Audrey Hepburn says it best. She advocated pink, laughing, kissing, and being strong when the chips are down. And she believed that happy women are the prettiest women, tomorrow is another day, and that miracles happen. Audrey Hepburn knew a thing or two about miracles because she nearly starved to death during World War II, yet she survived, thrived, and eventually became the mother of her two beloved sons. Audrey would have said the pinnacle of her life was not her Academy Award or her hit films, but her sons. It was her relationships with people she loved, as well as the children around the world that she helped through UNICEF, that were truly important to Audrey. What an inspiration she was, and still is.
May we heed the message of these signs and decide the world is not black or white, but that we all dwell here in this human condition of gray. May we decide that fear and hate will not bring prosperity or healing to our land. May we decide that our thorniest problems are seldom solved with a yes or no answers, or with all or nothing solutions. May we, like Audrey Hepburn, be gracious to ourself, place the oxygen mask on our own face first, and then share our joy and affection with the people we love and share simple kindness with people around us.
~ Anna – 6/29/2020