Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

By Matt Penney, CAPP

I checked off an item on my to-do list this morning: After four years in my “new” office, I finally got around to a little decorating. The parking signs that had been stacked on the floor now make a border around my office. The wide assortment intrigues guests and starts conversations. Each sign has a story.

There is the compact-vehicle sign. Those went up after a debate with a student who argued his Toyota Highlander SUV was compact—he found some internet page to support his claim. The conversation wasn’t worth my time so we added the clarifying phrase, “must fit in space,” with a cute picture of a car inside the yellow lines. That idea was borrowed from the University of North Texas.

There is the dreaded patient-parking sign. That sign has been through too many revisions to count. The political demand was for free parking for patients only near the campus’s largest academic building and recreation center. Sure, no problem.

There is a cool sign from a chain restaurant that used to be on campus. When the restaurant closed, a professor remarked, “It was such a nice, quiet place to go.” Yep, a little too quiet maybe.

The Longview Transit bus stop sign reminds me of where I cut my teeth as a young manager. It was my job prior to Baylor in East Texas. It’s funny how short sideroads of life can have such an impact. I really enjoyed that place and the people.

The newest sign in the collection is for the Baylor University Shuttle. It was used back when I first started to work for Waco Transit, the public transit provider that operates the service for the city and Baylor. I don’t want to brag, but I started there as a parts clerk and was pretty dang good at it. It was my first job in parking and transportation.

The oddest sign on the wall says, “Monitored Colony. Please Do Not Feed the Cats.” It features a picture of a cat staring longingly at you from the left. Stare long enough and you can almost hear Sarah McLachlan singing in the background. The day I took that phone call, I was certain feeding cats wasn’t in my job description. Come to find out, my job entails some literal herding of cats.

Above where I face at my desk, I placed a “Timed Area – 20 Minute” sign. It has a nice icon of a clock on the right side. It seemed appropriate. After all, I don’t get to occupy this desk at Baylor indefinitely.

One thing in common for all these signs is that they served a purpose. Their goal was to provide clear and concise direction. Each was imperfect, as you can never put enough words on a sign. We may hope to aspire to a similar goal. In this very confusing intersection of life, may we all provide the best consistent guidance to those around us.

May health, peace, and flexibility be with you and your teams this fall.

Matt Penney, CAPP, is director of parking and transportation services at Baylor University.