Home­made signs strive for change, but of­ten fail

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - LOCAL & BUSINESS - LEE CATALUNA

Funny how, de­spite the power of the dig­i­tal age, the pop­u­lar­ity of Twit­ter and YouTube and Face­book, the ease pri­vate cit­i­zens now have in get­ting their mes­sage out and hav­ing their voice heard, peo­ple still turn to a sim­ple home­made sign in at­tempts to ex­ert con­trol in the world.

These signs are made with a very op­ti­mistic eval­u­a­tion of the power of Sharpie-drawn let­ters on card­board rec­tan­gles — the be­lief that these pithy pro­nounce­ments or ad­mon­ish­ments will stop strangers from do­ing some­thing or ex­ert pres­sure on politi­cians, etc. For ex­am­ple, signs have been pop­ping up on curbs in Honolulu neigh­bor­hoods:

“Please pick up your dog’s doo-doo.” There are vari­a­tions on that doggy-doo theme, and some are an­gry and pro­fane. The signs are low to the ground, pre­sum­ably to catch the eye of the dog owner stand­ing there, leash in hand, wait­ing for their Shar-Pei to fin­ish the squat. In re­cent months, po­lit­i­cal protests have turned to clever, one-off hand­made signs to at­tract at­ten­tion, get news cov­er­age, go vi­ral and stay mem­o­rable. The protest marches where hun­dreds of peo­ple all carry the same pro­fes­sion­ally man­u­fac­tured signs have be­come passe in fa­vor of orig­i­nal­ity and wit. This week, an old fa­mil­iar Port­lock sign was back in the news. Years ago, some own­ers of Port­lock beach­front homes tried to cut off public ac­cess to the beach in vi­o­la­tion of state law. They put up a locked gate, and on that gate, a sign. And here it is again, a brew­ing bat­tle be­tween home­own­ers who want to pre­serve their pri­vate cor­ner of par­adise and the beach-go­ing public say­ing, “Hey, you can’t do that.” New gate, same home­owner. New sign, same words.

The ques­tion is whether these earnest signs make an im­pact. Res­i­dents of Mau­naw­ili put up a sign hand­painted on wood to warn tourists of the dan­gers of the trail to the wa­ter­fall.

For years, gov­ern­ment did noth­ing, so neigh­bors in the area had to do it them­selves.

Kauai’s fa­mous Ha­mura Saimin has a hand-let­tered sign posted that reads, “Please do not stick gum un­der the counter.”

One day, I made the mis­take

of look­ing un­der the Ha­mura counter. Whoa. Do not look un­der the counter. There should be an­other sign to tell you that. Signs work only on some peo­ple. There are those who see a sign and think of it as merely a sug­ges­tion or some­thing that may ap­ply to every­one else but cer­tainly not to them.

And there are some who see a sign and feel com­pelled to do the ex­act op­po­site.

“No park­ing” is a chal­lenge. “Keep out” is a pri­vate in­vi­ta­tion. “Do not ring the bell” makes them so itchy to ring the bell. Guess what’s of­ten curled into a pile in the grass right next to the “Please pick up your dog’s doo-doo” signs? Yup.

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