Previous “Signs of Intelligent Life” posts

Signs of Provincetown

Provincetown has no shortage of goofy signs.

I recently took a day trip from Boston to Provincetown. While there, I saw an assortment of amusing signs I’m now delighted to share with you.

“No Ranger, I Don’t Have Any Cannabis. Just This Here Legal Weed.”

To reach Provincetown, I took the fast ferry across several bays, arriving by water. As I exited the ferry, I was immediately confronted with this sign:

A sign providing a quote note about cannabis endquote

Though cannabis is now legal in Massachusetts, it’s still illegal at a federal level. As a result, many travelers might be carrying legally, until they step foot on federal soil. This is thus a useful sign, in theory.

It immediately goes off the rails, however, with the asterisk. I suspect the word “cannabis” is generally known, but surely “marijuana” would’ve been understood by anyone who needs to know what’s what. As for “herb” and “grass”, well, I simply have to wonder what the hell decade it is. Also worth noting, green generally means go and is also the color of marijuana, but the green areas on the map represents the places where possession would be illegal. And finally, could we get some punctuation here? My god, the more I look at this, the more of a train wreck of design it is.

1, 6, 7, 12, 13, 18, 19, 24 Etcetera

Next up, I stumbled upon a wild sale going on at Lighthouse Candles:

That’s just too many candles! That means you can leave Lighthouse Candles with one (1) candle, or six (6) candles, but not two (2), three (3), four (4), or five (5). Fortunately, I realized there was another number of candles one could leave with, zero (0).

Fess Up, Lululemon

Back down Commercial Street, I had to wonder exactly how much of a “pop-up” a store can be when it has a permanent sign:

“Oh hi! We just popped up with 5000 of these dumb bags! Buy some yoga pants!”

What Does It Mean?

Finally, we have a sign from Arnold’s Rent-A-Bike. Last year, I mocked them elsewhere for their slogan. That was on-the-nose, and more than a little redundant, but it was at least straight-forward. This, however, I don’t even know how to interpret:

A sign that says Helmets available for quote-safety-endquote

I honestly don’t understand how this sign should be read. Are they using quotes on the word “safety” for emphasis? This is certainly wrong, though it’s not uncommon. However, no emphasis is needed there, and there are no other quotes anywhere else. As a result, it reads to me as being sarcastic, as if to express their disdain for bicycle helmets. Is that a thing people do? The cartoon family behaving recklessly sure seems to, I suppose.

Ultimately, I spent the entire 90 minute ferry ride home contemplating this sign. Even now, however, I’m still no closer to an answer.

They Didn’t Make It

Honestly, what's even the point of showing a date?

As the end of 2018 approached last month, I started a different kind of new year’s countdown for two nearby businesses. Throughout last year, I passed the following soon-to-be-restaurants frequently, and each featured signs announcing their imminent arrival. However, rather than a simple “Coming Soon!” sign, both establishments opted for more specificity.

Tenoch sign stating they'll be open 2018

As you can probably guess from the headline of this post, Tenoch didn’t make their opening in 2018. As of yesterday, these signs remained up, and the restaurant did not look particularly close to opening. I’m not sure when those signs first went up, but it was several months ago. The restaurant had through December 31st to hit their self-imposed goal, but alas, they fell short.

The next one was foolishly even more precise:

A+B Burgers Sign stating they'll be open Late Fall 2018

I think it’s fair to say that “late fall” means approximately Thanksgiving and onward. At that point, why would they not just give themselves a little more breathing room? Despite what our local weather often seems to indicate, fall in the Northern Hemisphere technically lasts until almost the end of the year. They could have simply said “Late 2018” or even just “2018”. Alas, the folks at A+B Burgers flew too close to the sun on wings of ground beef before coming crashing back to earth on December 21st. Of course, they didn’t make it by the 31st either, so they’d have been screwed either way.

Goofy though they are, it’s likely that these businesses will open in the coming weeks, or at least sometime this year. Assuming they do, neither of these businesses will come anywhere close to the all-time reigning champion for inaccurate estimates.

That would be Canal Walk at Hamden, a “new lifestyle center” slated to open in Summer of 2009.

A sign advertising Canal Walk at Hamden, Opening Summer 2009
This picture was taken with an iPhone X.

For nearly a decade, I passed this sign while driving between Boston and New Jersey to see my family. I would look for it about halfway through my trip, and it just got funnier every time I saw it. Now I know, the financial crisis of 2008 almost certainly stalled this development, and perhaps even bankrupted some poor developers. And unlike a restaurant, it makes sense to advertise this before it opens, to get businesses signed on.

But wouldn’t you think someone would take this sign down once the date had passed? Perhaps in the fall of 2009, or early 2010, or at least sometime during the Obama presidency? It was visible to tens of thousands of cars passing on the highway every day, but it was also accessible from a walking path. Hell, with can of spray paint, anyone could’ve done them a favor and at least removed the date. And yet, this sign survived, year after ridiculous year.

This particular photo was taken in late December of 2017, but my own delays meant I never managed to write about this while the sign was still standing. At some point in 2018, the board was finally, mercifully, removed. The project itself is still nowhere to be seen, of course, but at least that sign is no longer lying to every passerby.

At a minimum, this project’s monument to failure stood for eight and a half years past its purported deadline. That’s a record I doubt I’ll ever see broken.

Additional CVS Signs

Last month, I discovered a strange assortment of handmade signs in Boston-area CVS stores, all pitching flu shots. The initial post on this included signs from eight different stores, and I’ve since visited more than a dozen additional locations to find more signs.1 As I’ve said, there are really a ton of CVS locations in this area. Let’s dive in to what I found:

First up, loyal reader Waldo spotted this Downtown Crossing store’s sign. As you may realize, they went with a Game of Thrones theme. It’s one that works just fine even if you have no knowledge of that show or the “Winter is Coming” meme.

Winter is coming / Get your flu shot todayCVS Store #49

There may have been some internal dispute at this location, as they doubled up their signs. They started with a Halloween-themed sign which is inexplicably heart-shaped. Below that is more instructive ad for flu shots, conveying urgency through an assortment of clock pictures. It feels a bit Twilight Zone-y, but it’s a solid effort overall.

2 signs: Say Boo to the Flu / Time to get your shotCVS Store #1009

In addition to being rather leaky, the needle on this next sign looks incredibly blunt. I would not like to get a flu shot with this needle.

You call the shots / get your flu shot todayCVS Store #361

Identical silver glitter paper can be seen below, as well as a very similar needle. Fortunately, this one looks as though it could puncture the skin without too much difficulty. That “Stop” sign could really use some work though.

Stop the flu before it stops you! (G)et your flu shot todayCVS Store #10517

Speaking of road signs, we’ve got this Newbury Street store’s offering:

Flu season aheadCVS Store #1206

In America, yellow traffic signs are general warnings (such as “Slippery When Wet”), rather than explicit instructions (“Stop”). This sign doesn’t actually tell the reader what they should do about the upcoming flu season, so yellow seems an appropriate color. How many passersby simply mournfully shrugged and moved on after seeing this, certain in the knowledge that they’d catch the flu and feel like death soon?

On the other side of the quality spectrum is this needle!

Stick it to the flu!CVS Store #2256

Well-done, Government Center CVS. I also appreciate the pithy writing.

Meanwhile, these two stores had very similar rainbow colored signs, each utilizing a “sick”/“quick” rhyme. It’s possible one ripped off the other, as they’re only about 3/4 of a mile apart. Then again, each of these stores has a CVS location that’s closer to it, and it’s not the same location in the middle of them. In CVS distribution terms, they’re not actually that close.

Don't want to get sick? Get the flu shot quick!CVS Store #1258

Don't waste fall being sick! Get a flu shot. It's super quickCVS Store #5874

This sign is from Maine, and they do things differently up there. They’ve printed a fairly odd wordcloud of flu-related terms on glossy stock. This is then surrounded by handwritten messages, presumably from CVS staffers. It’s unique, I’ll give them that.

Save your sick days for playing hookyCVS Store #8245

Finally, while this sign was printed on a relatively small piece of paper, rather than large posterboard, I love the design here. The message is the most honest of all we’ve seen, and it seems like the needle is thinking it in a cartoonish thought bubble. Nicely done.

Save your sick days for playing hookyCVS Store #10174


At this point, I’ve run out of nearby CVS stores to check on. While flu season is ongoing, flu shot season is certainly winding down. Still, I’ll keep an eye out for more, and report back with this important news as it develops.


  1. In addition to the signs shown, I found two stores in Boston (Store #8988, 25 Winter St. and Store #226, 81 Milk St.) which had no signs. As these two stores did not appear to offer flu shot services, their lack of signs makes sense. ↩︎

CVS’s Handmade Flu Shot Signs

A flu shot is a good way to avoid learning if pumpkin spice cough drops are as nauseating as they sound. On a recent visit to the CVS in Harvard Square1, I came upon the following sign advertising that very service:

Don't gamble on the flu / Let us vaccinate youCVS Store #240

I was struck by the non-corporate nature of this sign, and particularly amused by its arts and crafts style. My hunch was that someone had made it with supplies from the store itself. I could easily picture them grabbing a deck of cards2, a few markers, and a piece of poster board, then putting this all together. A close inspection shows the sign even has a border of Christmas lights on it, though they were not illuminated at the time. While the whole thing was probably assembled in a back office, I’d like to imagine its creator sprawled out in the middle of a less-visited aisle, looking exactly like a middle schooler working on a science fair project.

As I do so many times when something amuses me, I snapped a picture before moving on with both my shopping and my afternoon. The following day, however, I needed something from the CVS near my house (Store #1900). As I entered, I came face to face with another handmade sign:

Don't let the flu knock you out / See your pharmacist todayCVS Store #1900

Where’d the second letter “k” in “knock” go? Its absence gave the effort a delightfully homemade feel. Meanwhile, the boxing theme was likely inspired by a nearby statue of Boston welterweight Tony DeMarco, which sits just across the street from the CVS store in question. Here it is on Google Maps:

CVS and Tony DeMarco StatueLeft Circle: CVS Store #1900; Right Circle: Tony DeMarco Statue
[Photo credit: Google Maps Street View]

Finding two different handmade signs in two CVS stores multiple miles apart seemed like quite a coincidence. I began to suspect something was up, and immediately headed over to the other CVS near my house (Store #4666) to see if they had a similar sign. However, a quick look around that store turned up nothing. I left thinking that perhaps it was mere chance that the first two stores were advertising flu shots in similar fashion.

It took a few days, but that line of reasoning was eventually shot down at the Porter Square CVS (Store #717). While contemplating the rather alarming frequency with which I was finding myself inside CVS stores, I stumbled on a third handmade sign:

Don't get sidelined by the flu / Tackle it with a flu shot todayCVS Store #717

This sign was bizarrely hung at about hip level, and the legibility was not great, but it did contain an impressive amount of detail. Given the end zone markings, we can surmise that “The Flu” is squaring off in some sort of football bowl game against “CVS Pharmacy”. Zooming in on the center of that image enables us to see some rather crooked play.

Caped pharmacist with needle taking down a flu player
In the words of The Tick, that’s dirty pool!

That pharmacist appears to have used a massive needle to take down his opponent. That’s surely a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct, if not grounds for outright ejection. The pharmacist also appears to be wearing a cape, which is an extremely inadvisable choice of uniform for football.

Once I saw this third sign, I was certain I’d find more at other stores. That very day, I visited several additional locations to document more of these signs. I don’t have a lot going on in my life.

Don't get sick as a dog! Get a flu shot todayCVS Store #1022

This sign loses a few points for being hung way at the back of the store, but gets them back because it was in the pharmacy waiting area, where people are sure to have time to notice it. It also earns bonus points for the use of a cute dog.

Don't get caught! Get the shot!CVS Store #25

Speaking of cute, this little flu guy is adorable, and helpfully labeled to boot. I’m not entirely convinced I shouldn’t let him catch me.

Spread the word, not the fluCVS Store #1012

This sign’s lack of any real art made it a little bland beyond its bright colors. However, the inclusion of the coupon in the bottom right is intriguing. Are there people out there who wouldn’t normally bother to get a flu shot, but will change their minds if offered a $5 off coupon for their CVS purchase of $25 or more? Probably!

Get your flu shot at your favorite spot with your local CVS crewCVS Store #260

CVS Store #260 was easily the smallest I visited, and they had a correspondingly tiny sign. Rather than a large sheet of poster board, this is a single 8.5″x11″ sheet of paper. Despite its cramped quarters, the store does offer a photo printing center which these smiling pharmacists no doubt used. This is a decent quick and dirty effort, but there’s a lot of text, and those hashtags are absolute trash.

As I headed home after a long day of visiting pharmacies, I passed by that second CVS near my house, Store #4666. Coming in through a different entrance, I saw this:

Spread the word, not the fluCVS Store #4666

I don’t know how I missed it the first time through. It’s possible they’d spent extra hours (or even days) working on the details of that needle, and hadn’t yet posted it when I came by on my earlier visit. Either way, it was now obvious that every nearby store had a sign touting flu shots, and that no two of them were alike.


After tracking down these eight signs, I’ve come to two conclusions. First, it seems certain that CVS issued a directive that their stores advertise the availability of flu shots, but chose not to provide any official signage to display. Did this memo suggest making the signs with materials on hand? Was there a budget which would be reimbursed? Or even a time challenge? If we’re lucky, some reader out there will clue us all in to the exact details.

My second conclusion is a bit more prosaic, but still worth noting: There are an absolute assload of CVS stores around Boston. The store numbering system hints at how common CVS locations must be, but many of them blended into the background until I sought them out. Now, it’s clear to me that you can barely go a block without passing a CVS. Each and every one of them is full of people eager to stab you in the arm with a needle. Most of them are even health care professionals who are paid to be there.

Update (December 29th, 2018): If you made it this far, you probably want to see the follow-up post, featuring even more handmade posters.


  1. For many years, Harvard Square had two CVS stores within about a hundred yards of one another. There was the good two-story location at 1426 Massachusetts Avenue, and the drastically inferior single-story location at 29 JFK Street. The JFK store had a cramped interior with dingy carpeting, and was best avoided if possible. Of course, it was entirely possible to avoid it, because there was another CVS just up the street. I just said that!

    Yet two years ago, CVS announced plans for another location, at 6 JFK Street. For a brief few weeks in 2015, there were three CVS stores open within spitting distance of one another. The dumpy 29 JFK store closed soon after the 6 JFK location opened, and more recently, the 1426 Mass Ave store closed as well. Harvard Square is now down to a much more reasonable number of CVS stores.

    For more on the comings and goings of retail stores in the greater Boston area, see this post on Store 24. ↩︎

  2. I have a vivid memory of going to a CVS years ago to purchase playing cards and poker chips. I didn’t know quite where I’d find them, but I was certain that I’d seen them in every CVS I’d ever been in, on the end cap of a random aisle. Sure enough, that’s where I found them. ↩︎

Signs of Intelligent Life: Poland

It’s been a while since the last search for Signs of Intelligent Life, but a recent trip to Poland has led to a new SOIL. They do things a bit differently in Poland:

George Washington Street

For instance, they honored America’s first president by naming a street after him. However, they don’t know how to spell his name. At all.

Girl with a giant lollipop

You might think this was a warning to watch for children near the street. It turns out it’s actually an alert for diabetics, tipping them off to the presence of small girls with ludicrously oversized lollipops.


I managed to repeatedly read this incorrectly as “Pies!”. Apparently, this is a pedestrian warning sign, with Piesi being Polish for “Pedestrians”. That’s far less exciting than the thought of delicious rhubarb pie, and really, not at all deserving of an exclamation point.

Man moving triangles

Caution: Man moving triangles! Possibly with a pizza peel!

Ultimately, though amusing, these signs aren’t actually unintelligent. The real lack of intelligence rests with the non-native who couldn’t speak the language. Sometimes, the most rewarding searches are those which cause us to look inward and discover something about ourselves. That, or those which lead to the discovery of buried treasure or something. Those are pretty rewarding too.

SOIL: Valet Parking

The never-ending quest for Signs Of Intelligent Life (SOIL) continues. During a trip to SXSW, the valet stand outside the hotel had this sign:

Valet Parking Sign

Austin really is weird: they tax only overnight parking, not daily parking.

The real issue is there seems to be all kinds of unnecessary capitalization here: “Vehicles, unattended Vehicles or Vandals”. I suppose it’s possible Austin is infested with the Germanic people who ravaged Gaul, Spain, and North Africa in the 4th–5th centuries and sacked Rome in 455 AD. If that is in fact the case, Marriott would definitely want to insulate themselves from liability.

Assuming the capitalization is incorrect, however, it seems the hotel is not responsible for items left in vehicles, items left in unattended vehicles, or items left in vandals.

You’re a valet service. You’ve got nothing but unattended vehicles!

Update: Reader Stephen G. shared the following:

“My wife is a tax attorney so I now know way too much about this stuff. The tax for overnight parking is because they’re assuming that if you’re parking overnight, then you have a room at the hotel. In that case the parking fee is part of your room rate, which in Texas is taxable. Basically, because Texas refuses to have a state income tax we have lots of extra/weird taxes worked into our everyday lives.”

The more you know.

Signs of Intelligent Life?

There are many signs in the world. At their best, signs are easy to comprehend, helpful, and informative. Often times, however, they are not. These hilariously flawed signs are the ones I seem to find most often, in my never-ending quest for signs of intelligent life. Be sure to click to see the full-size images.

The Prairie
[Photo credit: Katie Smillie]


Cult Ad
[Photo credit: Katie Smillie]

In hindsight, I’m sure it seems obvious that this would be far more popular than the original dead pony ride concept. But business is all about experimenting to find what works.

Bi Door

I’ll be the first to admit, this is not always the most mature quest. But if you didn’t giggle at that a bit, you’ve got no soul.

Have you spotted a great sign yourself? Send a photo my way.