Sunday, August 09, 2009

Silly Signs

In 1985 we went to Ayers Rock for a family camping holiday. My 15 year old brother had broken his collarbone which left sulky, seventeen year old me to help Dad erect our complex, double-internal-chambered, 8-man tent every night. Thankfully I had my very groovy Sony walkman to blot out the uncoolness of traveling with my family and could immerse myself in the timeless sounds of Wang Chung, Dream Academy and Animotion.

The drive up there was dusty, hot and incredibly boring and we were all desperate to see something other than spinifex and monstrous road trains. One stage our prayers were answered: there was a rusted sign literally in the middle of nowhere. It wasn't attached to an old house, petrol station or railway siding but on its own and said proudly: LESBIANS ARE EVERYWHERE. For some reason I was quite happy to pose next to it for the photo, but still fervently hoped that it wouldn't be seen by any of my school mates.

Growing up in a country town meant that the amended road signs I ever saw were someone's initials shot into the metal with a slug gun. The location of the racist graffiti escapes me now, but at one stage a wall hatefully stated: ASIANS OUT. Very soon after, someone added three extra words which served to totally remove the hatred of the phrase: TAKE asians out TO LUNCH. Now that kind of intelligence is something to admire and enjoy.

A few years later, the most common silly sign I found was located in the toilets at the uni bar. In the interests of saving a few cents they were were using separate sheets of thin, cheap loo paper that were grabbed from the letter box slot at the bottom of the white metal box. Under every single dispenser would invariably be seen the words: ARTS DEGREES. PLEASE TAKE ONE. Ha ha bloody har - it's a bona fide skill to have detailed knowledge of ancient Roman art and archaeology and don't get me started on the relevance of the pre-scientific world view as it shaped out modernist thinking towards the dawn of the Renaissance.... There was a tiny bit of consolation in the fact that at the other campus their dispensers had: SOCIAL WORKER DEGREES. PLEASE TAKE ONE instead.

In second place was the trend to spraypaint a 'P' and 'T' to the ubiquitous 'Form One Lane' signs so they read 'Form one Planet,' and on the freeway to Murray Bridge at White Hill, a faded Rotary Club sign once advised strangers that yes, they were 'Welcome', but would they please 'drive slowly'. It didn't take long for some larrikin to liquid-paper out the 'r' and 'v' so that it said 'die slowly'. I'm sure that the second version was strangly prophetic for more than one visitor to the town.

We've all seen 'Please wash me' on particularly dusty cars, but my uncle, who then lived in the rural town of KiKi (don't pretend you haven't heard of it, it's on the long drive from Melbourne to Adelaide) found one on the back of his grotty old station wagon that made him laugh: Don't wash me - PLANT something.
Our local coffee shop has a small piece of cardboard that rests against the muffin counter saying "Any child who is unattended will be given three espressos and a kitten."

Mostly though in our day-to-day travels via playground toilet blocks and roadhouses we see the standard 'Michelle is a mole and is getting her head kicked in’ or 'For a good time call -----' and the pre-SMS precursor 'Kazza for Dazza 4 Eva 2 Getha' with several crossings out and replacements added in angry black scrawls on the backs of the doors. A slightly cleverer one was carved into the bottom of a toilet door in a shopping centre car park: 'Beware of lonely limbo dancers.'

I laughed so hard that the old lady in the next cubicle got out and left without washing her hands. At least I hope that's why she did.


Baino said...

I miss so much not going to public toilets! Seriously, I can hold on for a max of about 14 hours rather than face a porta loo or a wayward limbo dancer!

franzy said...

On the overland drive back from Bribie, every public toilet was thick with invitations from lonely men to other equally lonely men. I think the "1 in 10" ratio must be significantly higher in rural Australia.

Obviously, because 'lesbians are everywhere'.

River said...

14 hours, Baino? HOURS?

Kath Lockett said...

14 hours, Baino - for me it's about 14 minutes. Any new place I travel to or arrive at, my first thought is, "So where are the loos"

Franzy, there might be some -ahem- movement to the other side in rural Australia because, like prison, the women just ain't there. And if they *are* there, their clearly lesbians....