Sunday, February 01, 2009

A sign of the times?

click photo to enlarge
I don't know about you, but I thought it was deep water that was dangerous. At least I've seen plenty of signs around canals, rivers, reservoirs, lakes, etc., that warn me about it, so it seemed a reasonable conclusion. However, when I was walking in Williamson Park, Lancaster, I came across this sign, and the only conclusion I can draw from it is that if shallow water is dangerous too, then surely all water must be dangerous. Perhaps the sign makers could save time and money by simply printing "Danger, Water!"

Of course, if they did that they'd need to put the signs on taps, baths, water coolers and swimming pools. People would need to be employed to place portable signs next to puddles after rain, and to remove them when the water evaporated. And if we conceded this principle then all those "Danger, High Voltage" signs on electrical equipment would need to be complemented by "Danger, Low Voltage" on batteries, or would it just be "Danger, Voltage"? Maybe balloons would have warnings analagous to those on plastic bags, but instead of saying "Danger of suffocation!" they'd say "Danger , Low Voltage if Rubbed on a Jumper!" And, thinking about it, I suppose the plastic bags that have holes punched in them to prevent suffocation would need marking with "Danger, You might get a bit out of breath and damp from condensation if you put this over your head!" Or not.

I came across this photograph when I was transferring backed-up images to my new hard drive. I took it a couple of years ago. Looking at it the other day I thought it perfectly encapsulated our risk averse, litigation conscious, accidents-don't-exist-anymore, it's-always-someone-else's-fault culture. The organisation that had the sign erected was clearly covering its back, fearing that if someone dived into the shallow water (an ornamental pond) and hurt themselves they'd have vulture-lawyers working on a no-win-no-fee basis to recover damages for their "negligence" in not warning about the depth of the water. It's literally and metaphorically a "sign of the times" in which we live.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E500
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 45mm (90mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/60
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On