Sometimes I see a sign like the above that says “Absolutely no trespassing,” and then it issues a caveat like “after 8 p.m.” Wait, what? So I can trespass before 8 p.m.? And what does the “absolutely” add to the sign? Is this more like a “pinky promise” or is it a “triple dog dare”? Or “I’m serious, guys! No more trespassing!” The exclamation points would really seal the deal, wouldn’t they?
So, I stop for a minute and think. I have to think a lot about these things, because I wouldn’t want to trespass without permission, for instance. And then I wonder, is 1 a.m. before or after 8 p.m.? Can I trespass early in the morning, or just late in the afternoon? It’s not really clear to me, but I am almost certain that it’s okay for me to trespass between 6 and 8 p.m., like if I wanted to have a picnic.
But, then I get confused. If I have permission to trespass for my picnic from 6 to 8 p.m., is it still trespassing? Because one definition of the word “trespass” is to “enter unlawfully“. Another definition is when someone “knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises of another“. It seems that if you have permission, you are entering lawfully. So, under this particular sign, you could enter the above property at 7:59 p.m., but you would be trespassing if you overstayed your welcome past 8 p.m. I think about this every time I’m in a restaurant past closing time. What if they charge me with trespassing because I’m not out the door ASAP?
I face a similar conundrum every time I drive past our local Mid-Columbia Library on Union Street in Kennewick and they are having a “Giant Book Sale”. I get super excited to buy some GIANT books, only to find out that they meant the sale was giant and the books are all normal. Why would they trick me like this? Is this all just a game to them?
So, naturally, I ask the question: am I the only one who feels this way? Because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has seen a sign that says “Don’t feed the ducks” and then breathe a sigh of relief because I’ve only been feeding the geese. Or, often I’ll drive down a street with a big “Do not enter” sign and feel pretty confident that the sign was meant for another lane of traffic. Because it’s way over there. Yeah, for sure it didn’t apply to me.
I get the biggest kick every time I see this sign, though. Seriously, who is advertising this and why are they insistent on telling the world?
If you’ve seen any signs that confuse you, let me know in the comments below. And, don’t feel too bad for the sign makers: English can be a confusing language, even for the tradespeople of Walton Hills, Ohio.
What this all should really tell you is that if it’s hard to get a couple of words right, imagine trying to string together a couple hundred to make a contract or many thousand to make a book. Both of those would be monumental tasks. Literally.