Wednesday, September 30, 2009

An Introduction to Sign Spotting

When I travel, things change quite rapidly: time zone, climate and even culture. Considering that things change so often in my life, I look for simple things that I can find wherever my travels take me. One of my favorites is visiting grocery stores, but I also like to play a game known as Sign Spotting.

The basic point of Sign Spotting is to keep an eye out for interesting signs. It sounds riveting, I know, but bear with me. You look for signs that make you smile, laugh out loud or scratch your head and think, "What the heck did they mean by that?".

Truly dedicated Sign Spotters take pictures and post them on websites such as www.signspotting.com. There have even been several books published filled with interesting signs.

Personally, I enjoy the slight distraction of Sign Spotting as well as the amusement that I feel whenever I find an interesting new sign. Some signs, like the one pictured at the beginning of this post, have interesting stories that accompany them.

When I saw the sign embedded in the ground that proudly proclaimed "THE SPACE WITHIN THESE LINES IS NOT DEDICATED," I laughed to myself and took a picture. After that, I began to think about it and decided that there must be a story behind it, so I was determined to find out what why it was placed.

One of the people with whom I was working with in Philadelphia said that he had heard that the sign had something to do with street vendors. While this was possible, I wasn't entirely convinced because the verbiage was pretty cryptic.

Some digging on the internet led me to a detailed explanation on the Philadelphia Weekly website which had a detailed explanation. It turns out that the sign means that the space is private property and therefore not dedicated to public use. The sign signifies that the owners are being nice in allowing you access to the area but that you should be respectful of their ownership.

Not all Sign Spotting is as involved as the above example so I'll give you a couple of simpler examples.
The above sign can be found in Portland, Oregon. The sign is intended to be a warning to cyclists about the trolley tracks. The thought of cyclists being hurt on their commute is not really funny, but the sign always made me smile.
The above sign was the product of vandalism at St. Mary's University in Nova Scotia, Canada. It's one of those signs that you can walk by a dozen times without registering because No Smoking signs are everywhere these days. I'm lucky that I glanced over at it because it's become one of my favorite signs.

Sign Spotting is a great travel distraction, and you can do it without any planning or special equipment. A camera helps, but it's not needed to derive pleasure from this "sport."

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