As a writer and editor, I love signs. I love raging at misspelled words and poor grammar, and I love laughing at clever puns and other forms of word play. Shoot, sometimes I even love laughing at the misspelled words and poor grammar.
Last night, Scott and I went out to dinner to celebrate finally having our new book, Trails, into the publisher. On the way home, we passed a little strip mall whose marquee announced it to be the home of “Learning R Us.” I assume this is a tutoring place. But really? You want your child tutored in English by a place called “Learning R Us”? Perhaps they tutor only in math. Perhaps they’re full of left-brained tutors, with nary a right-brained tutor in sight to correct the error.
Along a similar vein, would you really want to eat at a place whose marquee reads, “Joe’s All U Can Eat Sushi—$11.95”? Sushi-grade fish is expensive. I shudder at the thought of what poor quality fish old Joe must be using to give it away for so cheap. Thankfully, I’m a vegetarian; I haven’t had sushi in years, so I guess I won’t ever have to find out.
A few weeks ago it was a sign outside May’s Flower Shop. It read, “Funerals: $29.95.” I’ve had a recent death in my family. You cannot have a funeral and pay less than $30 for it. Bare-bones funerals will run you upward of $5 or $7 thousand dollars. Put your beloved deceased in a fancier coffin and you can easily double that. Nope. No funerals for $29.95. Perhaps a funeral wreath. But not a funeral.
It isn’t only small businesses whose signage makes this editor want to grab her red-pencil. Back East, there’s a bank called the “Fifth Third Bank.” I always want to go inside and ask them where the Fourth Second Bank is located, but I don’t think I could do it without laughing out loud. (And, in the interest of full disclosure, I found out recently the bank is named for the intersection at which it’s parent bank was founded, at the corner of Fifth and Third in … I don’t remember what city, but somewhere out east.)
Some signs make me smile because I know it’s a language barrier issue and not just someone trying (unsuccessfully) to be clever, or someone who is too busy or lazy to add the word “wreath” to a sign. In a neighborhood that is heavily Chinese we saw “Happy Fish Pets.” I’d buy fish there, if I had an aquarium. I certainly wouldn’t want sad fish pets. And if I ever wore anything other than jeans and cotton sweaters or tees, I’d certainly do my dry cleaning at “#1 Cleaners Best.”
Other signs can make me smile because they sound funny even if they perfectly describe where you are. There’s a sign in our favorite national park, Kings Canyon, that reads, “Road’s End.” I giggled when I first saw it, but you really do have to take it seriously. It is, quite literally, at the end of the road at the bottom of the canyon. To try to drive farther you’ll end up in the Kings River. Which, I know from experience, is a very cold, very wet, river.
I wish I could turn off the part of my brain that insists on editing every written phrase I see. I’d love to take a walk, or a drive, and not be rewriting every store sign, every marquee. But it’s in my genes. I can’t help myself. I can get really worked up over poor signage. Just ask Scott. He’ll tell you. I can rant for miles and miles after passing a bad sign.
Perhaps I should go get myself some Happy Fish Pets. Perhaps just sitting and watching them swim happily around their aquarium would return me to a state of Zen. Then I can go out, do my errands, and forget about the signs.
And if I do this successfully, I’ll stop for lunch at Joe’s All You Can Eat Sushi. I can eat California rolls, after all.