Signs of the times

caution wet floor sign

caution wet floor sign

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Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret. (Ambrose Bierce)

A couple of days ago, I went into a Burger King outlet. The winter sun was shining and I fancied a soft-serve ice cream. Between the entrance and the counter, there were two yellow signs … and not a drop of water anywhere I could see.

Since the day I observed customers (several years ago, and at another Burger King outlet) tripping over a similar sign, I have developed a bit of an attitude to these ubiquitous objects.

At the counter, I handed the young man a one dollar coin and launched into something of a tirade. “Nothing personal,” I assured the BK staff member, eventually. “Now I’d like an ice cream, please.”

“I’m sorry, sir, the machine is off for maintenance,” said he, handing me back my cash.

Although, as Ambrose Bierce points out, I will regret my angry outburst until the moon turns to blood, the unfortunate truth is that it was far from my best speech.

What did I learn? I learned that my upset about this matter goes way deeper than I’d recognised – so deep, in fact, that I was unable to articulate my grievance cogently. There may be a connection with a life-threatening childhood accident … but I’m not going into that right now.

Yes, I think these are, literally, signs of the times – memes, if you like – that utilise ready-made templates within which we are invited/expected to formulate our communications.

I do not believe such signs signify that companies care about my welfare; it seem more likely that they are seeking to minimise their exposure to litigation.

PS: I hope nobody gets hurt tripping over one of the signs.

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2 thoughts on “Signs of the times

  1. Sartre argues an act of imagining can use an image and a text as a link to something else, that something we are pulling into our mind as it were. As we do so the link text or image is layered with our subjective feelings and past contact with the thing or person being remembered. So a picture of my father not only helps me remember my father, in some way it becomes my father as I place on top of it what belongs to my experience of my father and our relationship. Well Stefan, those yellow signs are beginning, in my mind, to have you added to what it offers. When I see it, I ‘recall’ you. I smile a bit, and I worry at bit too. Mind you my text may we be acted on by you and your sense of how I worry will be placed over what I write. The text becomes what Sartre calls an analogon.

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