You may have come across a sign or signs that left you still wondering in which direction to go. The image above shows lots of signs, but only four possible directions. I have no doubt that the signs are ‘telling the truth,’ but the amount of information to process is overwhelming, particularly to a driver who is just passing through. To demonstrate this, a reader may pay attention to the arrows in which case there are four possible ways to proceed. If the reader is more concerned by the compass bearings (the cardinal directions), then there are only three directions. Bear all of this mind while you are quickly approaching a major intersection. If you are in the far right lane, turning left is probably not going to be easy. As you decipher your way, you are also taking note that it is a four-way intersection (no stop light) and so you also have to pay attention to rules of right-of-way. Confused?
I often feel confused and intimidated despite the fact that I know a lot of thought goes into directional signs on roadways, in hospitals, hotels, airport terminals and malls. My problem is that I do not process the visuals fast enough. What complicates any certainty often are areas of construction. Here, I pose the question: how many times are you in a hospital, airport terminal or on a freeway that are not under construction. The site is always polite with yet another sign, “Pardon our mess while we renovate.”
The other day I was Albrook Mall here in Panama City. To get into one store, a sign said, please use the next door showing a directional sign indicating that the next door is to your right. When I arrived at the next door to the right, the door was locked and a sign said, “Please enter at the door on your left.” It was no surprise then that I didn’t see anybody in the store. Malls can be confusing and so I always take a photo of where I entered lest I forget. I do the same thing in multi-layered parking ramps at airports. A photo tells no lies. If you entered the mall at the purple kangaroo entrance, that’s exactly where you want to exit.
Directional signs are helpful, but as I mentioned, the information they convey has to be processed. So I appreciate a highway sign that indicates that your exit is 20 miles ahead. Furthermore, I appreciate a Geostationary Meteorlogical Satellite (GMS) system than can even tell me in which lane I should be when I complete that 20 miles.
In my work as a priest, I spent a lot of time in hospitals and it’s fair to say that most of the time, the hospitals were being added on to, renovated or otherwise changed. I remember seeing an elevator sign indicating that if you want rooms on the fourth floor of the D tower wing, go to the fifth floor and follow the signs. One particular hospital knew well the woes of its visitors. After signing in and indicating where I want to go, the volunteer said to me, “You’ll never find it. Sue will show you the way.” What a kind gesture, but I still had to find me way back!