Not so very long ago, in the restroom of a Washington State ferry where I had gone to rest, I noticed a small warning label on a hand-towel gadget. You’ve seen the kind. You pull down on a swath of dirty cloth towel —and a new section of clean towel is exposed from the roller a few inches at a time. Then you dry your mitts and walk away leaving the dirty cloth for the next person.
Such towel dispensers are becoming rare. The kind containing actual paper towels are much more common. Sadly, some restrooms have no towel dispensers at all—just air blowers, which are fine I suppose for people with both water and time on their hands.
EXCLUSIVE BREAKING NEWS: Some people do NOT wash their hands after using the rest room. Some of them, in fact, are current prominent government officials or others running for office. Their names will be revealed in an upcoming column strategically timed for the November General Election.
But back to that warning sign.
It read: “Do Not Put Head Inside.”
Whenever one might see a warning like that they would tend to think: “Well, of course you shouldn’t put your head in there! Who would even think of putting their head in there? It’s a HAND-drying gadget! Why would anyone need to dry their HEAD after going to the toilet anyway?” (In fact, I remember seeing a guy who got his head completely soaked in the restroom of the Cathlamet to Vashon. The captain had swerved suddenly to avoid a wayward kayaker—causing a headfirst tumble into the urinal.)
But there must be a reason that particular warning label had been placed on that particular ferry towel dispenser. It must be because someone, sometime, somehow—HAD put his or her head inside one of those things.
Maybe the person had been drunk.
Maybe they had been dared.
Maybe the captain had swerved to avoid a wayward kayaker.
But for some reason, someone had put their noggin in there—and something terrible had happened.
Did you miss that story? I did too.
Perhaps we overlooked the news headline that blazed across the front page of this very publication:
FERRY RIDER SMOTHERED
BY HAND-DRYING GADGET,
APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN WEIRD
ACCIDENT, SAY AUTHORITIES!
WARNING SIGN SHOULD HAVE
BEEN PLACED THERE,
SAYS VICTIM’S LAWYER!
THIS NEWSPAPER’S HEADLINES
GETTING WAY TOO LONG,
But a hand-drying gadget? There must be more obvious places not to place a human head—and signs to warn us. On garbage disposals for example.
Do Not Put Head Inside George Forman Grill!
Do Not Put Head Inside Running Lawn Mower!
Public aquariums should have warnings clearly posted: Do Not Put Head Into Tank Full of Piranha!
After all, warning signs are a relatively modern phenomenon. We have got so many of these days that hardly anybody pays attention to them. Especially those pesky stop and yield signs.
Sometimes the problem is that signs are just poorly placed. I saw one recently that warned of dangerous footing—but the warning was placed above a doorway. By the time the warning could be read, it would be too late. It would be better if the sign was at eye-level and read: Get Ready For A Little Surprise!
Studies show that Stone Age cave dwellers did NOT post signs that read: Watch For Low-hanging Stalactites! Those same studies also show that many early men were named Lumpy. (However, some historians insist that early man DID put up some hieroglyphics that translate to: Do Not Put Head Inside Saber-tooth Tiger!)
Maybe a state transportation official knows why that warning sign on the ferry’s hand-drying gadget is deemed necessary—but if it saves even one head, it will be worth it. Which reminds us that a safety notice would have been helpful during the French Revolution: Do Not Put Head Inside Guillotine!
For that matter, think of all the wars, territorial disputes and family feuds that could have been averted if only there had been signs clearly posted: Do Not Put Head Into Other People’s Business!
In closing, I submit for your consideration the below sign—actually two of them that join together to complete a single thought—that I photographed at a rest-stop outside of Ellensburg.
Controversial? Perhaps. But few can dispute it.