Emergency exits

My wife works as a staff nurse at a hospital, in the Mother-Baby unit. Mother-Baby is the unit where the mothers and babies go after the mothers deliver the babies.

It is quite a fortress. If you want to get in, you have to get permission; the doors are locked. To get in, you have to pick up a phone outside the unit that is hotwired to the unit inside and ask permission to enter. If the unit receptionist grants it, she pushes a button and the door opens (then closes automatically behind you).

But it is a Hotel California. Once inside, you cannot leave unless you get permission. To get out, you have to ask the unit receptionist for permission to leave. If she grants it, she pushes a button and the door opens. If she doesn’t, you get to live out your remaining days in a Mother-Baby unit. (They do have bathrooms.)

I have been told that they do this for security reasons. Simply put, they don’t want anyone to steal a baby. (I am told it has happened before, and I give them the benefit of the doubt. In fact, I believe a baby was stolen from a Texas hospital within the last few weeks.) So they have put a Great Wall around it and created a Great Bottleneck—one door to rule them all.

This locked-from-both-sides automagic door is the only way in or out of the unit. There is no alternate or back-alley exception, as far as I know. I know you can take an elevator up to the Labor and Delivery Unit (a design feature even I can appreciate), but I imagine that any babynapper wannabe would have difficulties using this as an escape route. So, realistically, the One Door is the only way in or out of Mother-Baby.

What I find intriguing about this is that on the inside, the One Door is marked with a clear, large sign that explains the rules of exit. It says, “Emergency Exit Only.”

””Homeland security, indeed.

Signs we do not need

One day, it just hit me. We have a lot of unnecessary signage. Most of the ones that first caught my eye were wasting our time beside the road, allegedly for purposes of traffic control. But the more Iooked, the more I saw. This short list is just a taste of the most obvious.

No Turn on Red When Pedestrians Are Present
Why do we need a sign to tell drivers not to run over people?

Stop For Pedestrians in Crosswalk
Do I need to repeat myself?

Merge Left
What is the alternative, Careen into the Ditch on the Right?

Do Not Stop On Tracks
Why not?

(Cityname), Population x
What are you going to do with this information?

This is a dishwasher magnet. Each word on this dishwasher magnet (usually shaped like a STOP sign) is upside down with respect to the other. You can flip it over to indicate the state of the dishes in the dishwasher.

Dear people: If the dishes have dirt on them, they’re dirty. Otherwise, they’re clean.

In a culture addicted to urging itself to avoid, uh, addictive drugs, this is the word we use to alert people to the existence of a pharmacy inside a grocery store. How about using the word “Pharmacy” instead?

Emergency Escape Route
You see these outside every elevator in every public building in every city in America. Has anyone ever used one of these? Ever?

Once while waiting for an elevator in the office building where I used to work, I studied the Emergency Escape Route map pasted to the wall next to it. I had worked in those offices for seven years, and this was the first time I had paid attention to it. I spent several minutes trying to work it out, but I could not make sense of the map. I kept trying to imagine taking the route depicted, but I could not understand it. Given my intimate knowledge of that floor, I got frustrated fast and kept trying.

After about five minutes, I finally realized that the map was oriented 90 degrees to the right of the direction I was standing; I had to translate the route in my mind in order to understand the way so simply laid out in red.

I guarantee you: If I had been decrypting this during a fire, I would have been burned alive. I’ve since studied Emergency Escape Route maps in other buildings and found that most have the same flaw—they are simply not oriented in the direction you are facing.

Place Face Up On Dash
Pay the money to park, and this is what they tell you to do. If that is not municipal rudeness run amok, I don’t know what is.

STOP! Important Customer Information
This sign, which now appears on all post9/11 mailboxes (the blue ones that you used to see on every other street corner), goes on to say that you are not allowed to put any packages in the mailbox “for security reasons.” I am still trying to figure this one out.

Sidewalk Closed
This is one of my favorites. Typically I see it bolted to a chain link fence, which is in turn cemented to a traffic barrier, which, of course, is blocking your way. Two feet beyond the barrier is a hole 20 feet deep, where a construction crew has excavated a basement for the next Walmart. There is no sidewalk not to take. Nevertheless, we have been duly signaged.


Let me know if you have any favorites of your own.

On the questionable existence of certain ingredients

I made a foolish promise. I promised my wife I’d learn how to cook.
The are many reasons for the foolishness of this, but it all starts with the content of the recipes. Most of them name ingredients which, were they not in published books, would arouse suspicions of a high school prank.

I think “capers” was the first. Have you ever seen an aisle sign in the grocery store for “capers”? Me neither. How about, “Cake flour”? “Pimiento”? “Zest”?

I have managed to find cake flour.