Monday, August 5, 2019

The stealth labeler strikes again . . .

A half a century ago, the college where I work was a male-only college.   Partly as a lingering consequence of that history, the building where I work has exactly one restroom on each floor:  women are odd and men are even.  I like to joke that all the female mathematicians know all the historians, and all of the male historians know the mathematicians.  (This leads to funny euphemisms: one of our job candidates once told me, "Er, I'd like to go visit the history department.")

Alternating-floor restrooms are unusual enough, but the situation has been all the odder because the Powers That Be decided all signs should be as discrete as possible.   And so new people to the building have a terrible time finding a restroom.  Because we're a college with a new set of classes each semester, we're constantly getting a new set of confused and antsy people asking us for directions to a place that ought to be easier to find.  

So last week, emboldened by my happy kitchen labeling*, I decided to what-the-heck make some visible labels that let people actually see where the restroom is from afar, and direct them to the other floors if that's what the situation calls for.
* My daughter asked, "Mom, did you buy a label machine?", 
but I'd just made them on the computer.  And my husband heard 
that I'd planned for the labels to be temporary, but said he 
hoped I'd leave them indefinitely.  I'm feeling label love here, folks.

A sign that sticks out into the hallway,
so you can see the sign from far away.
A small sign underneath the women's sign,
directing men to the even floors.
I don't know if the Powers-That-Be will leave the signs up or not.  But anecdotally, I've been hearing people who work in this building say things like, "I'm glad they finally decided to put up signs" (using the ambiguous "they").   Maybe the ambiguous "they" will never realize the stealth labeler has struck, and will ignore the signs entirely.  Maybe someone somewhere will decide to make signs out of something more durable than card stock and tape.  Or maybe the Administrator of Aesthetics will decide the signs are ugly and remove them.  Who knows what will happen?

As long as I was on a labeling tear, I decided to add signs to the water fountains, too.  (These are, not intuitively, stuck in alcoves at the opposite ends of the buildings from the restrooms, and are even less visible than the restrooms, if that's even possible).
Water fountain!  It's hard to find a clip art logo for this, actually.
It's weird to do something which feels simultaneously like an act of public service and an act of vandalism.  On the one hand, it's the kind of thing that lots of people say, "Somebody ought to . . .", and on the other hand, I've worked here 27 years and nobody has followed through.  So the weight of history and tradition and inertia sit heavy.   Printing out a couple of pieces of paper and taping them to the walls feels oddly daring.

It feels daring, and also kind of thrilling and addictive.  Who knows where the stealth labeler will strike next?  


  1. I LOVE this! Hope they leave it up (or improve it)!

    I have never done anything quite this awesome. Once when the lights went out at a museum in New Orleans they eventually kicked us all out. We walked around the outside for a while and went back to see if they'd re-opened and they had not, and there were confused people there, so I made a small sign with a sticky not I found in my purse.

  2. May they take the hint and leave them up, or even install permanent signs!