A sign was posted on a door at my office the other day.

“Please Open Slowly Working Behind Door Thank You.”

I needed to go down a flight to a meeting, but seeing the sign I walked around to a different staircase. I didn’t want to disrupt progress.

I did that several times that morning, each time congratulating myself on being thoughtful and compliant.

Later that afternoon I saw a colleague barge right through the door without pausing.

Nothing bad seemed to happen.

I approached the door cautiously, turned the handle and pushed it open.

This is what I saw:


No sign of anyone working. No sign that anyone had been working. No indication that any work had been done whatsoever.

It made me wonder who put up the sign and why. Did they intend to do work and then not show up? Did they finish early? Was it a prank?

It made me wonder why I had paid any attention to the sign.

How much of my life have I wasted by following signs?

There are so many signs:

Many really shouldn’t be necessary:

Life is full of unwritten rules, but increasingly written ones as well.

Many signs are amazingly specific in the types of behavior they prohibit.

It’s weird that this was enough of an issue to warrant a sign.

Some people resort to handwritten signs in a desperate attempt to get their way.

The vast majority of signs prohibit things. They tell us what we can’t do, often in a depressingly comprehensive way.

Some of the prohibitions are against otherwise healthy activities. And they add warnings or penalties as if to underscore a sense of irritation and the fact that a previous sign wasn’t effective.

You never see signs that say “Go Ahead, Walk on the Grass” or “Restrooms are for Everyone.”

The growing number of signs in modern life is mostly a proliferation of negativity.

Some of it exquisitely ironic. What would Jesus think?

My favorite signs are the rare ones that encourage positive feelings, reflection and gratitude.

Or those that exhort you to greatness.

Or inspire you to inspiration.

My favorite sign is a triptych outside the best pizza place in Asbury Park. It is simple, but original and memorable.

It makes me pause and reflect every time I go. And unlike most signs, it is always welcome and always makes me smile.

It says simply: Eat. Drink. Be Honest.

**Published by Ted Merz Jun 29, 2017 **