February 15th, 2009


Signs, signs, everywhere signs -- read them, dammit!

I read signs. I love signs. I pay attention to them. Being an insecure and thin-skinned person, I'd much rather be warned away from somewhere I don't belong by an "Authorized Personnel Only" sign than someone standing there saying, "Hey, you can't go in there!" Saves a ton of awkwardness and embarrassment.

And so it always amazes me how many people *don't* read signs. I'm not talking about children or illiterates; I'm talking about obviously intelligent, educated people who clearly know how to read. But you put a gazillion signs in front of them and they Just. Don't. See them.

Case in point: this weekend's Dance Flurry. Our base of operations, Saratoga City Hall, has offices and courtrooms on the first and second floors (first floor is street access), the police station and jail (all two cells of it) in the basement, and a music hall (wonderful old auditorium) on the third floor, which is where the only restrooms open during the festival are.

For this event, the offices are closed, there are dances on the third floor, and Pokingbrook Morris Dancers hold our annual fundraiser -- a food sale -- on the second floor. Our food prep/staging area is in the courtroom hallway, which runs between the elevator and the area between stairways where we sell the food.

The elevator in this building has the most confusing set of buttons that I've ever seen. For some reason, the number 2 is not next to the button for the second floor; it's next to the button for the first floor. It looks like this (the asterisks represent the buttons):

B* (space) 1*2 (space)*(space) 3*

Every year we take pains to tape a sign above the buttons, with arrows pointing to each button and a legend above each arrow: Jail (arrow points to basement button); Outside (arrow points to first floor button; Food (arrow points to second floor button); Dance (arrow points to third floor button). There really should be *no* reason to get off on the second floor unless you are involved with the food sale. Most people catch us when they come down the stairs from the third floor after dancing.

And yet, at least 20 times a day we get people getting off the elevator on the second floor, traipsing through our food prep area and wondering where the heck the dance is. And although we had a prominent sign on the wall near our serving area that said "Restrooms Upstairs," we got regular "Where's the restroom?" inquiries.

I was reminded of another festival NiiceDuude and I performed at a few years ago. We ended up wandering into two different food service stations we didn't belong in, and it was mortifying to be told so. I e-mailed the woman who had enlisted us to perform and said that signs on those locations would have saved us a lot of embarrassment and hurt feelings.

This festival was on a university campus and was partly sponsored by the school. Her response (and this is a woman my age, not a college student) was "It's a college campus. College kids don't read signs." Well, maybe so, but it was a *folk festival* on a college campus. Folkies are mostly middle-aged and older, and we *do* read signs.

I'm female (you probably figured that out from my screen name) so unlike the stereotypical guy, I have no problem asking for directions when I need them, but I do make every effort to follow the information I'm given and only approach other people for help when that information (e.g. signs) is confusing or inadequate.

What is wrong with these people? I know a few people with dyslexia, but I can't believe the inability to see, read and digest signage is *this* common.