Mark D. Roberts

no eating subwayYesterday I was riding on the AirTrain at JFK Airport in New York. This ride came after a eleven-hour travel day thanks to a canceled American Airlines flight and a two-hour-delayed JetBlue flight. While standing on the AirTrain in my travel induced stupor, I was staring at a couple of signs. One indicated “No Smoking” and the other “No Eating and Drinking.”
Nothing new here. But I started wondering about the “No Eating and Drinking” sign. Who, I wondered, decided which images to use? Why settle on what appears to be a hamburger and a drink with a straw? Why no french fries with that order? Have a burger and a cold drink become the universal food? Why did someone feel it necessary to add the straw? Could the burger be a big fat hot dog viewed from the top? Would vegetarians object to the use of a hamburger? Or would they simply interpret it as a veggie burger? Out of context, I wonder if we’d recognize that burger symbol as food? Perhaps if you saw it near a parking lot, you’d think it was a tire skid? Too much waiting around in airports can make one think strange thoughts!
no food drink signs britain germanyThen I wondered if other countries used different symbols for food. When I finally arrived at my hotel, I did some Net surfing. I found a couple of British signs that do not use a burger. One uses images of silverware and a tea cup. Oh, those British are so civilized! The other British image is harder to decode. It probably includes a half sandwich, an ice cream cone, and a drink. But it could be a piece of cake, the Olympic torch, and who knows what else? That drink icon doesn’t look much like any drink I’ve ever had.
Germans, those who gave us the word “hamburger,” do not use this symbol for food. Instead, like the Brits, they give us a fork and knife. Presumbably they’re including finger foods in their prohibition. The Germans don’t employ a tea cup. Nor do they give us the American soda cup with a straw. Instead, they use a partly filled glass. Note: it is glass or transparent plastic cup, since you can see the beverage quite plainly. I’ve got to wonder if this is a glass of beer.
no shorts eating monacoA few years ago I was visiting Monaco. At the entrance to the cathedral I noticed a curious prohibition sign. I think it means: “No bathing suits (or shorts?). No food. No dogs.” Here the symbol for food is an ice cream cone, quite a fancy one, actually, with two scoops and a drip. I’m assuming the sign is prohibiting all food, not just dripping ice cream cones. Likewise with the bathing suits. It surely means “No bathing suits at all,” not just “No yellow suits.” And I’m guessing that the implication is you need to be wearing more than a bathing suit, not less.
I couldn’t find any “No Food” signs from countries that use chop sticks or tortillas in the place of silverware or hamburger buns. But I’ll keep looking.
no food fat guyMy favorite “No Food or Drink” sign reminds me of myself on vacation. I like this sign, even though it means I can’t eat or drink by the pool! It’s hard to tell what this man has been eating and drinking. One might assume that someone with such a belly is probably drinking beer. But aren’t experts warning us about the empty calories in sodas? So who knows? If you look closely, it seems as if the plate still has some onions on it. This would suggest that man ate a hamburger. But I am impressed that he ate an apple. How healthy! We don’t know anything for sure about the woman in the picture, other than the fact that she’s none too happy with this man. Is she upset because he ate food in the pool area? Or is this the man’s wife, who’s upset because he’s snacking before dinner? Her look of disdain is priceless, as is her hairdo.

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