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Awake and aware: Do you notice notices?

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There are tools on your iPhone that allow you to disable inane online notifications, but how do you stop yourself noticing all the pointless printed notices that hang around you in the ‘real’ world? Peter Sherwood tries and fails.

Am I the only one who notices notices? I once saw a cartoon sign headed: NOTICE. It read, “If you notice this notice you will notice it is a notice. Further notices will be given in our next notice.” I’ve been unwittingly noticing notices ever since.

Probably, I am the only person ever to notice the safety notice in our local buses, and to bother reading it. This reveals the shallow pointlessness of my shabby existence, and how utterly pathetic my life has become. But the bus notice deserves attention, if only for a glorious waste of your time.

The laborious fine print

Before I get into the established etiquette of bus travel, time to reflect on a magnificent green and gold sign in the gym at my club. Nineteen points to ponder and I’ve yet to see anyone read them, except my compulsive self. As annoying as it was, I set the clock on this pedantically dull exercise: five minutes 27 seconds. Next day, I was mercifully unable to recall a single rule.

The gym needs a less exhaustive sign, like: “Try not to act like an idiot.” That pretty well covers it. Forget any childish safety nonsense.

Get stuck in a compromising yoga position with feet to the ceiling and a few discs out of whack? Warm up before you start next time, and no extra charge for the lesson. If members want to lie on a bench and drop 100-kilogramme weights on their chest, let ‘em. Fall off the treadmill and smash your face up? Try not to bleed on the carpet, and have the courtesy and good manners to call an ambulance. If you’re not ambulatory, lie there and scream till closing time. It’s a noisy place and no one will mind.

Freedom of expression should also demand that you can work out naked (subject to merciless mockery… naturally).

Now, to the buses. First thing: the safety sign is indecipherable except from nose-to-notice distance by pilots with 20/20 vision. I had to photograph and blow it up on my computer screen before it was anything but a blur of hieroglyphs. This corporate charade indicates the desire of the owners to have us ignore it (we do), while they reserve the right to eject or prosecute us for
any misdemeanour mentioned in the laborious fine print.

Whoever drafted this missive of monumental monotony must have lost the will to live at the halfway mark. Just reading it produced in me tranquil imaginings of a bottle of gin, a hot bath and a sharp implement. The read was excruciating, but maybe they make it agonising so that no one ever gives it more than a few irritated seconds.

Masochist that I am, I read the entire 18 points, which says more about my twisted psyche than any therapist might fathom.

I’m told there’s a cure for the obsessive noticing of notices: stop it. Seems like good advice.


Peter Sherwood has lived in DB for 19 years. The former head of an international public relations firm, Peter is the author of 15 books and has written around 400 satirical columns for the South China Morning Post.

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