Don’t piss here.
Yes, that’s what the sign said. Not in English, mind you: in Spanish. Maybe my translation presumes a slightly chippy tone that was not intended, but if I had a business with an outside wall against which men (I’m assuming, I admit it) regularly relieved themselves, I think that would get old pretty quickly.
Here’s the less colloquial, more literal translation.
Show your education.
Don’t urinate here.
I saw signs like this in Guatemala, lo these many years ago now, and while it didn’t seem like a lot to ask, they struck me as both funny and as a bit crude. But there’s more than one kind of crudity. After being in a place where I didn’t understand any street profanity, when I came back to Ottawa’s mean streets I yearned for a t-shirt to address the assault on my ears.
But these days the assault is more on my heart than on my ears, and it comes from politicians, journalists, commentators, activists, and even regular folks of all stripes, and on both sides of the border. Now, call me crazy but it seems to me that the things that unite us are greater than the things that divide us — so far. But it’s all so much more than I could address on a t-shirt, so let’s see what I might need on a sign.
Show your education . . .
Don’t initiate or spread hate: not of any group or of any person, and not even while protesting what you see as hate in someone else.
Don’t accuse others of being racist without incontrovertible evidence. In. Con. Tro. Vertible. Don’t over-interpret and malignly interpret everything you hear.
Don’t lie. Don’t use others’ lies as an excuse for your own.
Don’t shout people down. Not literally, not by your tone, and not by the intensity with which you approach a subject.
Don’t try to intimidate anyone: not physically, not socially.
Don’t panic. Don’t confuse merely obnoxious, or even wrong-headed, with evil.
Dial down the rhetoric and your blood pressure. Don’t treat every policy difference or disagreement over methods as a moral outrage.
And hey, feel free to do better. Show your perspective. Show your patience. Show your humour, intelligence, tolerance, graciousness. You know, leave it better than you found it. But at the very least, show your education, dagnab it! Don’t make our world a less tolerant, less logical, less hopeful, less wonderful, less civil, and generally stupider, nastier, and stinkier place to live.
Too complicated for a sign, you say? You could be right. Back to basics it is.
Don’t piss here.
I mean, is it really too much to ask?