Signs of the Times

When I first arrived here at Carleton a 3 years ago, I must admit I was lost. I wasn't exactly sure where Myers, my assigned freshman dorm, was located, I didn't know what the letters CMC stood for, nor could I readily distinguish where Sevy ended and Sayles began. I followed the little map in my lagniappe everywhere I went, tracing the sidewalk from Leighton to Laird with my finger as I walked it. About a week later, that lagniappe was in the trash along with so many of its brethren, and I was confidently navigating my way around campus. Sure, I'd still get lost occasionally, but I found that someone was always around that knew how to get where I needed to go. It's an extraordinarily small campus, after all, and the people tend to be quite friendly.

Now I'm a senior, a master of dishing out directions to confused freshmen and anyone that happens to be driving by. But these days I always wonder, don't they see those lovely new blue signs all over campus? Surely, those little arrows and not I should be directing these lost souls to their destinations. Haven't these people been to a mall or a Target? Lingerie ⇒, Electronics ⇐, how hard is that? It can't possibly be that everyone's ignoring them. Against the green grass (or white snow) and beautiful architecture of Carleton's campus, bright blue giant steel signs are pretty conspicuous. Especially since there are so damn many of them. It's pretty tricky to find a single section of campus that doesn't include that obnoxious blue, much less stray far enough away so as to consider oneself truly lost.

Of course, the reason people still ask for directions might be that the signs won't actually lead anyone to places they don't already know how to find. Great Hall ⇐. Concert Hall ⇒. So Great Hall is one of those 4 buildings over there, and the Concert Hall is one of those 6 over there. Gotcha. Do they want visitors to check every blue sign they see until they triangulate their destination? To find Evans nowadays you have to head down to Evans Drive and look for the blue sign that says Evans Hall. Never heard of Evans Drive? It's actually a parking lot, but Evans Drive sounds much cuter. You can ignore the inscription above the door; it's far less informational than the sign, which clearly states the building to be a residence hall (soon they'll have "place where students live" in small print at the bottom, in case people are still having trouble).

Signs like "College Street Parking" are also vital. Had I come to Carleton for the first time, I wouldn't have known you could park your car in those spaces and walk to that list of buildings, and I would never have found the chapel without that friendly sign. Hell, I might have mistaken it for a gift shop.

Speaking of which, why don't we build a gift shop? Right in the middle of the Bald Spot. Seems like a good place for it, and it would really flesh out the whole 'campus as mall' theme that we're going for in the new millenium. The Bald Spot is clearly an inefficient and underdeveloped piece of land anyway. Think of the revenue we could generate! At the very least we could landscape a hill in there somewhere, and put up signs for this new hill everywhere so people would know how to get there. Of course, we'd also have to throw up some no-smoking signs so everyone could enjoy the hill without getting cancer. In fact, the no-smoking signs should probably be blue neon so people can continue to observe them at night, and matching blue wouldn't upset the blue sign motif during the day. That'd be classy.

It's just money after all, and we've got to spend it somehow. Why not pour some more concrete and throw in some more metal signs? We've got to keep that all-important "signage committee" busy. It's an investment for the future of this institution. Besides, I'm sure some Ivy League schools (who are not better than us, by the way) are doing similar things.