Monday, July 26, 2010

Who Wrote That Rule?

Here’s what I want to know:

Why are the rules set up the way they are?

In the gym where I work out, there’s a sign above the water fountain. It reads


So here’s what I want to know. Is it okay to spit on the floor? Is it perfectly all right to spit on the equipment? What if I should suddenly decide I want to spit on the mirror, the stack of towels, or another member? That’s okay, right, as long as I don’t spit in the fountain…

Why doesn’t the sign just say NO SPITTING?

For that matter, when we watch the old reruns of Barney Miller (which hold up really well, by the way), I have observed that the wall inside their cell (oh yes, if you’re not familiar with the show, it’s a New York city police station sitcom—very well-written) says DO NOT SPIT ON FLOOR.

Again, I am compelled to ask, is it acceptable to spit on the bench, on the wall, or on another perp?

This brings to mind a story a friend of mine told me once about renting an apartment in the late 1960s. Everything was going perfectly well—she liked the apartment, found the rent reasonable, loved the location, etc. The landlord wanted her to sign something saying she would not use illegal drugs in the apartment.

My friend was not a druggie, and had no intention of using illegal drugs. But she found it incongruous that this would be a requirement of tenancy, and that there were no such demands being made to guarantee that she would not break other laws, steal, bear false witness, covet her neighbor’s ox, dishonor her parents, or commit murder on the property.

She walked. On principle. I like that.

But I still don’t spit in the fountain.


  1. It's sad that these signs are needed at all as it means someone didn't get the memo growing up--either too busy ignoring mom or dad or the parents didn't care enough to teach the kids the basics.

    I'm not sure I would have walked out on the apartment, though... Depends on how good a deal it was ;-)

  2. I think you would enjoy this site:

    It has been my experience that signs like these are often put up to address a particular behavior or bear passive-agressive witness to something someone has seen and disapproved of - like spitting in the water fountain or perhaps a previous tenant that smoked pot. Though you bring up an excellent point. Can I spit on your desk? Can I use and abuse legal drugs? Sort of like appliance warnings - 'do not use in bed' on a curling iron. You just KNOW someone did that, got hurt, sued and WON because no one told them not to. And I'm rambling.

  3. I think Karin is right....Somebody behaves badly, and instead of confronting that person, the one who is offended puts up a sign. Like that's really gonna help.

  4. My parents live in a 55+ community in upstate New York. There's a clubhouse with a pool and a list of pool rules that's taller than me. the one rule I find equally fascinating and disgusting: "No discharge of bodily fluids in the pool". they have to write that down????? Makes me wanna dive in...NOT