While on vacation this summer I visited a picturesque light house maintained by the Coast Guard. While standing next to the tower I looked down from the railing and saw a sign that promised me a jail term or fine if I stepped over onto the vegetation. I thought, “Couldn’t it just say: Please Keep Off of the Vegetation”? Then another threatening sign I noticed on the way out gave instructions and said “Failure to comply with these instructions will result in cancellation of visiting privileges.” As if the instructions, meant to ensure safety of the visitors, were not enough in themselves.
The signs pictured above anticipate that citizens will be criminals and will try to bribe the friendly automobile smog control inspectors and provide rules while visiting a park. As if this was not enough, you are encouraged to go back to town and obtain a complete set of rules and regs to comply with while communing with nature.
While some signs make sense and are useful, government signage tends to evoke an arrogant authoritarianism that grates on the honest citizen. It would be more dignified and civilized for signs to politely guide rather than threaten. But I guess when you have the big stick of the law, jail and fines behind you, then you don’t want to let anyone mistake your command for a mere suggestion.
Did you ever notice the signs that were once prominent in the post offices, which said: “It is a crime to assault a postal worker.” Oh, well, it never crossed my mind. But thanks for warning me anyway.