Sign, signs, everywhere a sign!

Published 5:55 pm Tuesday, March 2, 2021

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Even at age 67, my mind is like a steel trap.

In February, we published our annual edition of Crossroads. This year’s theme centered on the historic signs that dot the landscape of the Roanoke-Chowan area. They are fondly known as “history on a stick”….a couple of sentences about a famous person, place or thing.

We went a bit further with Crossroads this year by researching and publishing more information about these historical figures.

Snapping photos of those signs to go along with our stories reminded me of a column I wrote for this exact space way back in May of 2010. My topic had to do with signs that leave us laughing because of the way they’re worded or interpreted.

I felt the urge today to share that column again. I hope my readers enjoy it for a second time.

Sign, Sign, everywhere a sign; blocking out the scenery breaking my mind; do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

Does anybody remember that 1971 song – “Signs” from The Five Man Electrical Band, a rock group from Canada’s capital city of Ottawa?

That’s the same year the good folks over at Northampton County High School gave me a diploma and told me to leave.

But getting back to the point of this column, there is signage out there in the world that the originator should have used a bit more thought. The interpretations are hilarious. Here’s a few examples:

Toilet out of order. Please use floor below. (I certainly hope this sign was posted in a multi-story building.)

Seen in a laundromat: Automatic washing machines; please remove all your clothes when the light goes out (and wait for the other patrons there to either scream or double over in laughter….or maybe even call the cops).

In a Memphis department store: Bargain basement upstairs.

Posted outside a department store: 0% percent off selected items today.

Information sign on an interstate highway: Lodging Next Right; State Prison (err, no thanks; I think I’ll stop at the next exit).

Seen inside an office: Would the person who took the step ladder yesterday please bring it back or further steps will be taken. (This one makes you read it again to catch the joke.)

Another office sign: After coffee break, staff should empty the coffee pot and stand upside down on the draining board. (Maybe after the blood flows to their head, their work will improve.)

Seen outside a second-hand shop: We exchange anything – bicycles, washing machines, etc. Why not bring your wife along and get a wonderful bargain! (I refuse to make a joke here because of the consequences I’ll face at home.)

A sign in the produce section of a grocery store promoted a questionable deal on red peppers: Now – $2.09; were $1.89.

A notice posted in the window of health food shop: Closed due to illness.

Spotted in a safari park: Elephants please stay in your car. (That sign needed a well-placed comma.)

Seen during a conference: For anyone who has children and doesn’t know it, there is a day care on the 1st floor. (Let’s all hope that those needing that type of service realize they have kids.)

Notice posted in a farmer’s field: The farmer allows walkers to cross the field for free, but the bull charges. (Love the “play on words” with that one.)

Message on a leaflet: If you cannot read, this leaflet will tell you how to get lessons.

Seen on the entrance of a repair shop door: We can repair anything (please knock hard on the door – the bell doesn’t work.) Perhaps I’ll consider using another repair shop!!!

Outside a Rhode Island business: Marty’s Liquors…Fine Wines…Kegs…Lottery…Ice…Drive-Thru Redemption. (Marty apparently is attempting to corner the market!!)

This one is actually not a sign, but rather the name of a California business – Ill Foods. (Gee, I wonder if they’re still in business?)

Seen outside a bargain shop in Idaho: Come inside where everything is a dollar, or more!

A sign in Dade City, Florida proclaims: Restroom Facility Open…No Dumping. (Hope those stopping there for a certain bodily function had a clean change of clothing!)

An Ohio fuel station solicits customers with this sign: New Owner Have Gas Come In. (Well, thanks for the warning!)

A sign seen outside a mom-and-pop motel in California reads: Stop Here! We beat everybody. (Hopefully not physically, but in price!)

Cal Bryant is the Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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