This is one of those traumatizing weeks in which I am reminded more than once that real work sometimes comes along – and it bites into your day. Just time for a quick photo tour of Your Tax Dollars at Work.
First, the entrance to the Hong Kong Museum of Signage in Tsimshatsui. Some of these signs give you information that is useful, if redundant by the time you arrive, like opening hours or times of guided tours. Others state the obvious, like ‘That Thing You Get in Every Museum is in the Museum, Through Here’ and ‘So is This One, Also Through Here’. The lonely sign far away in the shadows on the right is a generic ‘No Frisbees /Bagpipes/Penguins Allowed Ever’ not specific to the museum, and therefore an outcast, shunned by the institution’s own very important signs standing proudly and neatly in a row to welcome visitors…
Second, the elaborate network of roads, feeder roads, support roads, extra roads, spare roads, let’s-stuff-in-another roads and more roads surrounding IFC Mall and adjacent wasteland. This is also signage-related, I suppose, but more to do with the transport bureaucracy’s very obvious schizoid policy of enabling parking in places where it is supposedly not allowed. Behold the (double-yellow-line-indicated) no-parking zone – with attached parking space…
“We had no choice, because otherwise pedestrians or cyclists would use the space.”
Maybe the double yellow lines are an indication that double parking is not allowed near IFC (because it is elsewhere??) After all, the cars are not parked on the double lines, like they would be on any other street, but rather outside them. Yes, that must make sense.
My favourite one in HK is ‘no paraphernalia allowed”.
Don’t you love the cars in Hong Kong?
In the left picture a Rolls Royce, 7 seater and a Ferrari , right picture a Bentley, Mercedes and 10 or so 7 seaters.
If I’m not mistaken, the double yellow lines indicate no parking in the roadway while the lay by is permitted? May be wrong though, but otherwise these lines would bend in and surround the lay by? Bored today, so weighing theoretical traffic possibilities.
Wrote this for the SCMP, some 25 years ago, when ‘mildly sardonic’ was allowed –
There is a senior civil servant in the Department of Signs responsible for spending the department’s annual budget of $5 billion. Every year he gets a call from the Secretary for Signs.
“Mr. Woo,” the Secretary for Signs says, “we’ve agreed that this year’s sign budget is to be the same as last year.”
“But I don’t need five billion dollars! Hong Kong has enough signs already.”
“Nonsense!” says the Secretary. “Hong Kong always needs more signs. Road signs, announcement signs, warning signs and, particularly, signs telling people what they cannot do. I went to a gazetted beach last weekend and there was not one sign saying ‘Cars are Not Allowed on this Beach’. Do we want people driving cars on the beach? Of course we don’t. But people will unless you put up a ‘no cars’ sign.”
“No one drives on the beach in Hong Kong.”
“Mr. Woo. I want no arguments about this. We need more signs. Goodbye.”
So for another year Mr. Woo and his hardworking staff have to scratch their heads to find things to say on signs, and find more and more places to put up these signs. Only occasionally does Mr. Woo have a good start to his morning.
“Mr. Woo, Mr. Woo. Good news! This morning I passed a sitting out area in Sai Wan Ho that had not one sign,”
“It’s a miracle! Where is it?”
“Tai Lok Street in Sai Wan Ho.”
“And you mean there is no sign saying ‘Tai Lok Street Sitting Out Area’?”
“Well, obviously, there is that. But there are no ‘prohibited’ signs.” Astonished, Mr. Woo calls in his team of ‘prohibited notice’ writers and they brainstorm.
‘‘No dogs, no spitting, no vagrancy, no littering, no dumping, no hawking, no skateboarding, no lying on benches… all the usual. I want these up by lunchtime. Now, let’s be more creative,” Mr. Woo enthuses.
“How about ‘No grazing of water buffalo’?” suggests a veteran of the department.
“’No fishing from this pier’ is always popular,” chimes in another weary hack. Mr Woo calls for a map and finds Tai Lok Street is, today, sadly inland.
‘‘No gambling,” suggests a raw recruit.
“Yes,” Mr. Woo says, perking up. “I like that. Sai Wan Ho could well be a hotbed of outdoor gamblers. Let’s make this a huge big banner; that will put a stop to their big plans. Let it be done. How much will that lot cost?”
“$6,235,” says the number cruncher immediately, moving to the big board to adjust the ‘budget yet to be spent’ column to $4,600,397,160.
“Err, boss,” pipes up the raw recruit again. “I’m thinking of road signs here. What if we make them double-sided? Two signs in one if you like.” With a quick and convincing sketch, Mr. Woo is sold.
“It’s brilliant! Of course one side of the sign will be up against a brick wall in most cases, but that’s not our department. One road sign will cost almost twice as much to make. We’ll rattle through the budget.” That evening, Mr. Woo took his creative team out for dinner, and on to karaoke. It was well past midnight when he got home.
“You’re out late,” Mrs Woo said sleepily as Mr Woo slid into bed.
“Something to celebrate,” he replied, gently reaching out to straighten the ‘No Snoring’ sign on her side of the bed before falling into a deep and contented sleep.
Two more signs on a (for some) quiet day.
At a barbecue area above a beach, with smoke billowing, rank with the smell of charcoal and fat, a large banner: ‘No Smoking’.
In a public library, two notices side by side: ‘No filming or photographing’ and ‘CCTV in operation’.
There is actually a serious issue with the proliferation of inadequate, inappropriate, plainly daft signs in HK.
I did a case where a teenager was grievously injured as a result of diving into the deep end (all 1.1metres) of a swimming pool. The “no diving” sign was mixed in as one of 20 signs put togehter, including “caution:wet floor” and “novice swimmers are advised not to swim in the deep water” plus others of the same ilk. Plus the Englsih version was different to the Chinese version in meaning.
There was no indication as to why diving was prohibited ie that there was no deep water anywhere in the complex, or rather no warning”no diving: shallow water”.
The case dragged on for years. About three days before the judge was to inspect, just prior to trial, the LCSD had a plethora of “no diving” signs attached to many surfaces but again with no explantion.
The Department of inJustice, though its silk, was happy to plead that a warning was broadcast including”do not dive except in the designated diving pool” but had to admait there was no diving pool, designated or otherwise.
This escalator is out of service until prior notice.
We appreciate any inconvenience caused.
There use to be a mattress shop opposite to HKU. The sign said in Cantonese and English, ‘Happy Bedding’. If we look at China signs the hilarity would qualify as a belly reducing, anti-obesity campaign. Think about it. But by all means laugh. Fitness is a giggle and a guffaw away.
Joe blow. yes the escalaters actually closed for ‘power saving’ with the little chain across it. always amuses me when i step over the chain and walk up ‘the stairs’ n see the local amazed faces standing on the adjascent operational escalator.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I can take much more of this.
I mean how much idiocy does one have to be subjected to before one goes bonkers?
I have thought for some time that the Hong Kong civil service (sic) was, by a country mile, the most lamentable legacy of the British Empire. This confirms it.
Time to ship out, chaps. Bags I the prow in the next lifeboat out.
There can be little doubt that Nury Vittachi will regurgitate much of this at some point down the road. Please … don’t encourage him!
When there is a useful sign, it’s often obscured by another one.