Laboratory Confessions

(Was) The Sign of the Times?

I am a vigilante sign remover. I have just come back from removing “Wet Paint” signs that were in the hallway for a week. Does paint really take a week to dry?

I am not anti-sign. Proper signage can protect you from exposure to biohazards and radiation and from getting paint on your new shirt. I am against people who never take down their outdated signs. As a result of this tardiness, we become desensitized to signs and assume many no longer apply. Like the signs listing a phone number to call for service—with just seven digits? Yeah, I’m sure that number works; just show me to the rotary phone. Tell me, if a busy postdoc walks right by the big red sign that reads “Warning: Alpha-male mice competing for supremacy!” and is suddenly beset by furious, squealing rodents hurling themselves through the air, who really is to blame? I’ll tell you who: It’s the idiot who never removes those “kittens for sale” sign despite the fact that the cats are now fully grown.

If I can’t verify that a sign no longer applies, I leave it up. But I will confess that I took a leap of faith with one sign on a glass door that read, “Warning Emergency Exit Only Alarm Will Sound.” Come on, I said to myself. There’s a path beaten through the grass on the other side. Clearly this is a major shortcut for people.

I indeed verified that no alarm sounded when I opened the door. But I can’t bring myself to scrape the sign off the glass. I should call the proper authorities, however tempted I am to just paint over it with a new sign about kittens and see whether anyone notices.

Editor’s Note: Have a late-night laboratory confession? We might print it if it is indecent enough.