Reading the Signs

I have an obsession with signs. Maybe it is because I just plain like to read and I will read anything that has words in it. (Okay, how many of you have read the ingredients on the shampoo or toothpaste because you were stuck in the bathroom and you were bored and you needed to read something?) Maybe I am always looking for meaning. Or hidden meaning. Wherever I go. I think I drive Booth, my husband, crazy when he is driving. I read every sign I see out loud. On the side of the road. On buildings. On trucks. I saw a truck bearing the sign for "The Wetter Water." Wetter water? Whoa. I had no idea water can be wetter. Apparently it is so. I learn things from signs.

Otherwise I'd be Beyond Lost. Not that being lost is a bad thing.

This past July I did what I call my "July-Brary Tour." I drove 1200 miles and spoke in fourteen libraries in the North Central Washington Library District. It was an amazing trip. It is amazingly beautiful country. Warm, welcoming people and abundant fresh fruit greeted me every step of the way. And of course I saw signs. Fortunately I had my camera with me.

I saw this sign in Mazama, Washington. It is much better than the usual: "Slow Children." That sign has always bothered me. Why are the children slow? Of course that makes them targets on the road. Sometimes the sign says: "Slow Children Playing." Well I hope they are playing. They are still children after all.

This sign is truthful. There are pets, children and wildlife and NONE are to spare. I especially hate it when snakes and turtles are hit by cars. They need signs, too.

Signs seem to be everywhere, though...

Here is a bumper sticker that I saw on the July-Brary tour in the library parking lot, which was also the town hall parking lot, and the police headquarters parking lot in Tonasket, Washington:

I was especially thrilled to see the two young women who got back into that car just as I was leaving to head to the next town, Omak. Signs say a lot about the people who post them.

Guess who posted that sign? A librarian! This hilarious sign was next to the check-out desk at the lovely Moses Lake Library. I love a librarian with a sense of humor. Lord knows, they need it dealing with the general public and unattended children all day.

But I have a confession to make: Sometimes my brain misreads signs. I don't know why it does this. Could be a "sign" I'm becoming dyslexic? For example: There is a sign near my post office that says, "Ballard Dental Arts." I don't read it that way. I see "Ballard Denial Arts." I've always wondered just what kind of art that would be, the art of denial. Maybe they need to choose a different font so that the "t" is more pronounced.

Today, to top it all off, I was driving to the gas station, and I saw a sandwich board sign on the corner of the street. I thought it said, "Singles Vacations." I thought to myself, "what an odd place to promote that sort of thing," due to the fact that the sign was sitting in front of a Rite Aid Drugstore. Then I looked again. The sign actually said, "Shingles Vaccinations." That made much more sense.  But truth be told, I prefer to read signs my own way. Sometimes they even lead to ideas for stories, books, poems... or they just make me want to take a picture so I can smile and remember a few words that broke the monotony and seriousness of life...

What signs do you like to read?


  1. I love this post! Nina, you and I may just be the same person. I also am always sorry for the slow children playing. And I totally hear you on reading signs in a 'dyslexic' way, but it always gives me a good laugh when I realize what the sign really says. Glad to hear I'm not the only one who does this.

  2. Nina, your comments about signs had me smiling! I've had the same kind of temporary dyslexia when spotting signs in passing. My favorite "sign" story happened when I was a kid growing up in New York City. My older brother and I were at a playground. There was a sign sprayed on the blacktop in yellow letters: a big "NO" with those small yellow letters on the side:


    Curious tot that I was, I turned to my brother and asked, "What are bike-skating dogs? How come they're not allowed here?" My brother, being a smart-aleck, proceeded to spin an elaborate yarn about bike-skating dogs and why they'd been outlawed. I don't remember all the details, but it was a hoot, trust me! :-)

    Thanks for sharing your signs and stories, Nina, and keep those delightful blog posts coming!

  3. I love signs too! Especially billboards that are in between postings, so the image has been partially ripped off to reveal layers of other images beneath it. I have a collection of photos of them.

  4. I recently saw a sign in the window of a juice bar on Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles: "Sorry, We're Open." It was perfect because the guy behind the juice bar was a complete curmudgeon. Fun post Nina!

  5. I love quirky restaurant signs. Apparently other people do too.

  6. Julia- thanks! Maybe we were separated at birth?
    Dorian- you made me laugh- that story is priceless! Should be a kid's book... I grew up in NYC, too.
    Paisley (great name!)- My dad tears posters off walls to make collages. It always embarrassed me as a kid, but now I find myself wanting to grab things, too, but the digital camera is a much better approach.
    Judy- Don't drink the juice there.
    Mark- I can't believe all of you photographed the same sign. Are the burgers really that good?


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