Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

Posted on June 6, 2012


Those of you who have followed my postings know that my wife and I have just completed a 650 mile move to be closer to our children and their families. This necessitated finding a whole new set of doctors. As I made the rounds of my new doctors, signs in their various medical venues reminded me of the 1971 hit song by the group Five Man Electric Band, “Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs.” For those of you who are either not old enough to remember 1971, or those of you who are too old to remember 1971, here is a download of that memorable song:

 I was particularly fascinated with three signs. The first two of these signs were located in public or semi-public bathroom facilities. They reminded me of the pair of lines from the song:

                   “Blocking out the scenery; Breaking my mind.

                    Do this; don’t do that!  Can’t you read the sign?”

           I can’t say the signs were blocking out the scenery. However, they were definitely “breaking my mind.”

         One of the signs was in a combination shower and restroom located in a testing facility in a hospital, used by both in-patients and out-patients. A computer generated sign on an 8½X11 sheet of plain white paper was taped to the inside of the exit door. In bold print it said:

 “Patients please dress or cover-up before leaving the shower and returning to your room.”

 This sign gives new meaning to the phrase, “Just trying to cover your rear end.”

         The second sign was in the public men’s room located off the lobby of a doctor’s office. The sign was brown plastic with white engraved letters. The sign was firmly attached to the ceramic tile wall, behind the only toilet in the room, by what appeared to be clear glue. Residue of dried glue had oozed out from behind the sign at the top, bottom and both sides of the sign.

         The white etched letters of the sign read:

 “Do not flush anything down this toilet except toilet paper.”

 Apparently one of the doctors or nurses realized the problem this command was posing. Someone had taken a piece of white surgical tape and stuck it to the wall below the sign. Then they had taken a bold-tipped Sharpie and scribbled on the tape, “What about poop?”

         The third sign to which I was drawn was posted in the waiting room of one of my new doctors. It presented a quality of life Likert scale. For many years, I have used Likert scales in surveys to gather information, but I had never seen this particular Likert scale. The idea behind a Likert scale is to use points on a straight line continuum or a sequence of numbers to indicate one’s feelings about a particular topic. One of the most common Likert scales is the following 5-point scale:


  • Strongly Disagree
  • Disagree
  • Neutral-No Opinion
  • Agree
  • Strongly Agree

The respondent is asked to blacken the appropriate circle to indicate his or her feelings toward a particular statement such as:

 “President Obama is doing a good job managing the United States economy.”

          The sign in the waiting room that fascinated me was asking patients what they thought about their quality of life. The suggested answer scale was a 7-point Likert scale: “


  • Delighted
  • Pleased
  • Mostly Satisfied
  • Mixed Equally Between Satisfied and Dissatisfied
  • Mostly Dissatisfied
  • Unhappy
  • Terrible

Which circle would you blacken to describe your quality of life?

         This sign brought me back to one verse from the Five Man Electric Band song about signs.


“And the sign said, “Everybody welcome. Come in, kneel down and pray.
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn’t have a penny to pay
so I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign.
I said, “Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ’bout me. I’m alive and doin’ fine.”


Returning to the question posed by the sign in the doctor’s office, which circle would you darken if I asked you about your quality of life? For my own life, I would have to say:


“Mostly satisfied—Thank you, Lord for thinkin’ about me. I’m alive and doin’ fine–most of the time.”