Tuesday, 22 March 2011

On Signs

There are roads that I cross everyday, literally minutes from my house, whose names escape me. I have literally no idea what they're called. This makes it incredibly difficult to give people directions; any instructions I give are usually something like the following:

"Go straight on until you get to the pub, turn right onto the road with all the hairdressers then turn left at the second phone box. If you reach a tree that looks a bit drunk, you've gone too far."

Pretty unhelpful, I'm sure you'll agree. It would seem that I've unwittingly developed the ability to completely disregard any signs or symbols that are displayed to make my life easier. Where others see road names, I see a blank space.

I blame this problem fully on the immense amount of information that my tiny brain is expected to handle on a daily basis.

The streets are littered with to let, to rent, for sale signs. Each sign has its own logo, a website and phone number. Double yellow lines indicate no parking, on train platforms they say stay away from the edge. Pound signs, percentages and price tags clutter shop windows that display one of a million possible brands. No smoking, no access, CCTV in constant use. Rallying points, health & safety notifications, planned tube delays.

It's no wonder that, when faced with such a barrage of information, my brain has decided to block it out rather than embark on the troublesome task of working out what I need to know and what's irrelevant.

No; I do not need to know the name of the company maintaining the scaffolding I walk past in the morning. At least not at the moment - if it falls on my head then rest assured that I will track you down.

I don't even want to know which local authority manages the road I'm walking down, what the soup of the day is in a restaurant I can't afford, or what percentage APR a certain bank's best new credit card offers.

I accept that this information is important for somebody else, and that there could come a time in which I need to know something that I've previously ignored, but at the moment my head is too full of stuff to filter the visual assault I'm faced with. It's almost like I'm sleep-walking; I take absolutely nothing in.

At least that's how it was, until three weeks ago when my job took me on a brief trip to Paris. The leafy boulevards of the French capital were littered with just as many signs and symbols as its less pretty British counterpart, but they seemed so much more interesting. Different phrases, different logos and a different language. It forced me to look, to open my eyes, and since I've been back I've found myself looking around again, taking things in.

It's what I needed, I think. A chance to step back and see something new and exciting (including a chance to meet a real live blogger in her natural habitat). It dragged me out of the daze I've been walking around in for so long, and made my days that little bit more interesting. Sometimes it takes being dragged kicking and screaming out of your comfort zone to make you realise how comfy it is.