Weird communication. Was: Airport shuttle

Subject: Weird communication. Was: Airport shuttle
From: David Castro <thetechwriter -at- YAHOO -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 28 Jun 1999 11:01:04 -0700

I guess that this was the weekend for weird technical communication
incidents. I went to the county fair this weekend. At one of the rides,
there was a large sign indicating the rules for riding. One line read:

"This ride is not recommended if you are/have any of the following:"

which was followed by a row of icons, each with the "no entry" symbol
over it (circle with a slash through it). I figure, "Great! They're
trying to make it more international, putting them into icons." But
then I looked at the icons.

One was a heart. I'm assuming they meant if you have heart *problems,*
as opposed to just having a heart.

One was what looked like a developing baby in a womb. I think. Either
that, or it was spaghetti. I couldn't tell if they were telling you
not to go on it if you were pregnant, or if you had just eaten.

One looked like a grave. There was a mound with a cross at the head.
So, I figure you can't ride it if you're dead.

One was either a hockey stick or a spinal cord. So, either you aren't
allowed to take on long objects that would stick out of the windows,
or you shouldn't go on it if you've got back problems.

Another one I never did figure out. It looked like one of those
mirrors on a strap that doctors used to wear to shine the light into
your throat (anyone know the technical term for one of those? :-).

All in all, it was quite funny! I agree that icons have their place
(I can't imagine a toolbar in a software application that had words
on all of the would take up far too much space). But,
I also think that icons are often used where simple language is more

-David Castro
techwrtr -at- crl -dot- com
thetechwriter -at- yahoo -dot- com

--- Ben Kovitz <apteryx -at- CHISP -dot- NET> wrote:
> Yesterday on the shuttle from the rental-car drop-off to the
> airport terminal, I came across an unusual technical-communication
> glitch. Nearing the terminal, the bus driver hit a button to
> play a recording telling what the next stop is. That was nice--
> the recording is in clearly spoken English, something that many
> of the bus drivers don't speak. But the recording said to refer
> to "the list above" to see which airlines were at the East
> terminal. Um, "above" what?
> Predictably, lots of passengers started scrambling around to see
> what the recording was talking about. I thought maybe there was
> a sign up high outside, so I looked out the window. The speaker
> was in front, so some people looked above the speaker. It turned
> out that the list of airlines was on a placard up above the
> windows on the inside of the bus, where advertisements usually are.
> This confusion probably happens on every single trip.

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