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One evening upon my return from work by way of the subway system I passed by an area of construction walled off by some temporary planks, prominently guarded by a red warning sign...


due to: Monsters!
(scrawled in messy black marker)

Evidently the show of humour wasn't palatable to transit authorities, for the sign was gone the next day. Often the maintainance drones are so lazy they don't fill in the white box provided to let commuters know just what the danger might be, so some travelling comedian or gallant character probably did the service for them.

One thing I do know is that the people that oversee our transit service here in Toronto are so damn uptight about anything that might give the impression that the system is unsafe. That whole attitude creates an atmosphere of repression, where graffiti and tagging - far from being tolerated or overlooked - call for an immediate removal of the vandalized train or streetcar for a thorough cleaning, at great expense. Of course, it's a stretch to guess that a similar rationale may have been behind removing the rather innocuous sign, but consider if you will a theory of the reasoning behind this political climate. Toronto is the multicultural city... with such a wide array of superstitions packaged in fleshy sacks making their way through the underground network, no doubt one would encounter a soul who would have taken the benign sign at face value. Regardless, whoever took it down was a real tight-ass.

I was ticked simply coz I didn't have a chance to record the sign with a photograph. Call it a quirk, but I harbour a strong interest (perhaps even a fascination) with signage. Signs will be found just about wherever human beings have been; they are a universal mark of humanity. Everywhere you go, you will find signs. Many are subject to multiple interpretation, often deliberately. The language utilised often has to be custom-tailored to suit the diversity of the population. Often one is led to think of possibilities likely never dreamed of by the authors of the sign text, while at times the double entendres are only too obvious.

Thusly I laugh at the sign that sez "CAPITAL RADIATORS: the only place to take a leak!" or the one that goes "All Passengers - Tripping Hazard". I chortle at the incongruity of an "Adult Depot" right next to "Somporn Thai Cuisine", or a "Tarot ESP Psychic" sign at a booth in front of a major department store. "Cirque du Poulet" in Kensington Market and the accompanying mural elicit a smile, while the stark red and white ad proclaiming "Forget you ever saw this" earns a worried glance.

I take pictures of signs and graffiti. I stash them somewhere obscure online. I have seldom found someone with an interest to share them with, but occasionally the absurd has a use in online correspondence. Alongside bridges, tunnels, and big buildings, signs are one of those peculiar things I have a fondness for. Frankly, I'd enjoy my time on transit more if the textual space weren't so restricted to whatever makes money. A "NO SMOKING" banner with "crack" written next to it, or the "Press for Assistance" bar with the last seven letters blacked out would help to amuse the likes of me. That warning of danger from, of all things, MONSTERS!, sure set my imagination to work, wondering just what sort of beast might lurk deep within the tunnels. Giant rats and radioactive scorpions? A furry modern-day hybrid of mole and troll? The bastard offspring of Mothra and Ann Coulter?

Not that I mind it so much, but to be able to do without music and books as a way of making the daily trip interesting would be swell. Items of interest on the way into work would seriously alleviate the dehumanizing malaise that can set in after years of taking the same exact route five days a week, fifty some-odd weeks a year. Why, shazbot! The TTC has even closed down the Spadina Movator and has it slated for removal. Are we going to have to resort to actually talking to our fellow riders to amuse ourselves?

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