I’m not sure I really became aware of the potentially oppressive nature of signs until I, as a teenager, heard Tesla reprise the Five Man Electrical Band’s 1971hit, “Signs”. Unfortunately, the spirit of the song didn’t really endure as well as the tune itself. After all, it was the 1990’s and, at the time, it qualified as “rebellious” to wear a flannel shirt to school and stop combing your hair on a regular basis (thank you, Seattle). But, it was then I began to notice just how many signs there were around; parking signs, street signs, municipal ordinance signs, even signs forbidding certain turns at certain times of the day. It seemed every year as if there were more and more, and I should hardly be surprised. Of the many wondrous things that modern tort law has given us (personal injury lawyers, class action lawsuits, and warnings on chewing gum not to, under any circumstances, put it in your eye), the proliferation of absurd written warnings and prohibitions is really the least of it. As a lawyer, I probably ought to feel partially responsible – after all, it’s my profession that perpetuates this propagation. I, of course, don’t and, in fact, think we could use a few more.
Listen, don’t take me wrong. I went to seven years of college (including law school), and the fact that I have trouble deciphering some of the residential parking signs on Los Angeles side streets is an absolute travesty. We need additional posted parking restrictions like we need another Bush presidency in eight years (wait, will Jenna be old enough?). But, I have come up with some additional signs that, I think you’ll agree, should be posted immediately:
No Parking Stalking – Minimum Constant Speed - 5mph. This is to be posted in all parking garages. Parking garages are incredibly efficient structures. The allow for a parking lot to be extended vertically, so that no “parker” is more than the distance of the lot, and maybe a few stairs away from where they want to be. Additionally, they allow for a single path to be taken until the first available spot appears, at which time the driver can park. Unfortunately, the same level of intelligence required to effectively consume a banana – and we live a world of people who are just content to eat it with the peel still on. As if it were a surface lot, drivers insist on driving and stopping in these structures, and stalking “ideal” spots; all the while holding up the traffic behind them. Why is it always the people who are looking for a spot where they won’t have to walk are the ones most in need of a little exercise? Failure to obey this posted restriction would result in being forced to park a minimum of one half mile from anyplace you were trying to go for thirty days. It’s like a forced exercise plan for morons. Hey, if you can’t be smart, at least you’ll be fit!
No Engine Noise Enhancement – Appropriate Exhaust Volumes Only. To be posted on any street with regular pedestrian traffic. I don’t get this behavior, I really don’t. Now, I do know that larger, more powerful vehicle engines make more engine/exhaust noise. But I also know that that causality only runs one direction. In that, making ones engine noisier does not make it larger or more powerful. I’m afraid, however, that this simple truth is lost on the majority of people under the age of twenty. I’ve seen countless compact Hondas, Hyundais, Toyotas, etc., outfitted with a device which bolts onto the exhaust pipe of the car and makes it sound like someone put their spare change into a blender and set it to “Puree”. Now, I’ve never, ever met a girl who thinks this is even remotely attractive. So, you tell me, aside from being annoying, is there a point? In addition to impounding the vehicle immediately, failure to obey this posted restriction will be punishable by a fine which varies based on the difference between how loud the car is and how loud it should be. A punishment and a math lesson all in one!
No Mis-Sized Clothing – Dress Code Strictly Enforced. I’m not quite certain what peoples’ obsession with ill-fitting clothing is. Before you go crazy, I know that not everyone can afford expertly tailored garments – nor can small children always be kept up with as they grow. I’m not looking for bespoke suits on everyone (I don’t even own one), so don’t bother giving me any nonsense about how this is thinly veiled classism (I’ll put my classism plainly out in the open, thanks). This dress code would only apply to people age thirteen and up. If your pants cannot stay on your waist, or at the very least your hips, they are obviously too big. Additionally, if any of your clothing required hand tools to operate the fasteners on, or if any of you is uncomfortably protruding out over said clothing, it is clearly too small. You know damned well those jeans don’t fit, so just cut it out already. I’d rather watch kittens be tortured than be greeted with the unfortunate aftermath of you trying to fit yourself into pants that are four sizes too small. Additionally, young men, rest assured, if someone wants to see your underwear, they’ll let you know. For now, it’s safe to assume that I’m not one of them. Failure to obey this posted restriction will be punishable by a court order to wear a properly sized one-piece jumpsuit for two weeks… with your correct sizes printed on the outside so you won’t forget them (nor will any of your friends).
No Obstreperous Behavior. To be posted in all coffee shops, and non-fast-food, non-chain-restaurants. These are places where the conversational noise level is not only comfortable, it’s desirable. If I wanted peace and quiet, I’d stay home. I’m out at these places to hear the rattle and hum of human interaction. Well, adult human interaction, that is. I’ll bet the people who most need to heed this sign will have to look up what it means (which I advise). Ever wonder why there aren’t any teenage stand up comics? I don’t. I know why. Teenagers aren’t funny. Oh, they think they’re funny. But they’re not funny. Ever. So teenagers at the coffee shop, listen up: the only thing worse than your loud, lame jokes is the loud, lame laughing that follows it! I understand these are your formative years, when you need to express yourself, but can you maybe do it someplace, say, that I’ll never, ever be? That’d be great. Additionally, clapping at a restaurant when one of the wait-staff accidentally drops a dish is about as grown-up as the crowd at a New Kids on the Block concert. Seriously.
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Okay, so “Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs, Fuckin' up the scenery, breakin' my mind…” But in a world where we’re increasingly afraid to even say anything to one another – signs could be an effective way to put people on notice that their behavior is not only wrong, but completely ridiculous. It’s also a quick way to provide due process so that we can get to the business of enforcing the rules they state. And besides, if signs are going to tell you and I where to park and what to do, the least they could do is provide us a little relief from and recourse against all the dumb around us. Can’t you read the signs?