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Confusing Parking Signs: A Report From the Trenches

September 19, 2011 at 7:16 pm

World traveler and blog reader Dawn S. sent me the following photograph, which she and her husband took on a street in Beijing, China. 

Dawn says it means, "No exploding cars."  But I beg to differ.

I note that the red line passes through the car but not through the explosion.  So I interpret this sign to mean that explosions and/or candles are OK, as long as they aren't on or near cars.   Which makes sense, given there's a line of parked cars beneath the sign.  If you were reading that sign, it would ruin your day if those cars spontaneously erupted in flame.

Well, okay.  I don't know what this means, but I'm really curious.  Can sombody decipher it for me?  It's probably something that will be obvious in retrospect, but in the meantime it's fun to speculate.

There are other possibilities.  Maybe the message is, "You cannot park your car here if it is on fire."  Which is an extremely reasonable parking policy.

A street sign in Beijing.

Comments

Scott Denning September 19, 2011 at 11:04 pm
Some symbols just aren't universal. I recall, when the 1980 Summer Olympics were hosted in Russia, the local paper shared several dozen of the "universal" information symbols the Russkies had come up with to help visitors. About half a dozen made sense at first glance, the rest were WTF? Here's a collection of some fun/wacky/confusing signs: http://www.leaderpost.com/travel/Photos+Weird+confusing+pointless+worst+signs+around+world/5408008/story.html But the all-time classics, the ones that still make me burst out laughing no matter how often I see them, are these re-captions of REAL informational images put out by Homeland Security. No foolin' -- these are real images with a very high WTF factor, reflected in the parody captions. http://www.safenow.org/
Steve Halter September 20, 2011 at 8:55 am
Here is a link to a closer view of the sign: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hiddenninjaskills/4146620077/ In this, it is clear that the red line passes behind both the car and the explosion. Apparently Chinese cars are transparent through the grill as well as the windows. I guess this could mean that they allow nothing except exploding cars in that area. Clearly the car parked next to the sign is flaunting the law. I've got to give this one the Most Hard to Decipher Pictorial Sign award.
Steve Halter September 20, 2011 at 11:16 am
Scott, The signs and captions at http://www.safenow.org/ are hilarious (in a disturbing way). Seriously, what are these people thinking? Who could interpret these things in some rational manner?
DMS September 20, 2011 at 8:18 pm
Steve, glad to see I am not the only one who reached so obvious a conclusion on the meaning of that sign. And having just tried to apply my own googlefu to this problem, I find I am not that far off: http://www.bjjtgl.gov.cn/publish/portal1/tab206/module708/info2353.htm
Ian September 20, 2011 at 8:57 pm
Both of those collections are brilliant. "Caution: The edges of this sign are sharp!" I think I've seen that one around the lab. As for the Homeland Security signs, seriously, what is the "think carefully while getting sprayed with biotoxins" sign supposed to mean?
Ian September 20, 2011 at 9:04 pm
Now that I can see it up close, I see that my original argument doesn't hold up. It seemed to me that the red line passed behind the fire but in front of the car, thus banning cars but not explosions. But it seems the red line passes behind both of them. So much for my attempt to split hairs! Maybe you're right. Maybe the ban is on non-exploding cars. In which case I see a lot of tickets waiting to happen in that photo. Could it mean "No Idling?"
DMS September 20, 2011 at 9:10 pm
Steve, glad to see I am not the only one who reached so obvious a conclusion on the meaning of that sign. And having just tried to apply my own googlefu to this problem, I find I am not that far off: http://www.bjjtgl.gov.cn/publish/portal1/tab206/module708/info2353.htm
Ian September 20, 2011 at 9:11 pm
I like my explanation better. The world is full of dangerous goods beyond candles and confetti, but the sign doesn't convey that. It almost looks like it's saying, "No Birthday Parties Allowed in Cars."
DMS September 20, 2011 at 10:08 pm
How did I manage to post that twice? And, clearly, it's no birthday parties on top of cars.
Steve Halter September 21, 2011 at 7:31 am
DMS: Cool the official interpretation. Of course then one wonders why so many people were carrying dangerous goods in their cars that a sign was needed. And, what the official definition of "dangerous goods" is.
Ian September 21, 2011 at 9:23 am
How did I manage to post that twice? You didn't. I did it for you. For some reason when I approved your comment it refused to show up, so I reposted it from scratch, and then (apparently, in the middle of the night) the original decided to appear, too. Of course then one wonders why so many people were carrying dangerous goods in their cars that a sign was needed. And, what the official definition of "dangerous goods" is. Well, if the dangerous goods include birthday cakes and confetti, then in a country with over a billion people, that's a LOT of birthday parties every day. Some of those are bound to take place on, in, or near cars. That's my theory.
Steve Halter September 21, 2011 at 2:31 pm
Ian, I think you've got it nailed. Clearly an ancient cabal of birthday cake smugglers is at work in China.
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