Our new-fangled world is crammed with signs. They’re made with rules about size, design and color; using cutting edge psychology and advertising savvy. Flashing lights and computerized screens lure customers using every trick except that one called character. Luckily, that’s the main ingredient in the Caribbean where most signs come to life by a hand holding a paint brush or a very magical marker.
Most island signs sprout when locals make a business. Tacked to a building, post or tree your wants and needs are spelled out. The painful ad for Clippers Barber Shop and Beauty Salon promoting HAIRCUT EYEBROW WIG BRAIDING WEAVE PERM should have taken a clue from Carriacou’s CUT AND FIX. Rudy’s Rendezvous Grocery in Jost Van Dyke lured shoppers with MAKERS HANGOVERS! CURES! Business boomed from a sign declaring SEA MOSS GOOD, SEA MOSS MAKE YOU SEXY compared to the one in Anguilla stating BOAT BUILDER AND COFFIN MAKER.
Some are created with a sense of urgency like the scrawled posting in Tortola declaring, BAD BOYS KEEP AWAY. (Bad boys might read but do they follow directions?) Surely Carriacou’s bovines understood, COWS KEEP OFF RUNWAY because if they didn’t, they might find themselves on the menu.
Who would ignore the notice in Antigua warning, IF YOU HAVE NOTHING TO DO-PLEASE-DON’T DO IT HERE! It’s the Reader’s Digest version of THE BEST BUISNESS OF ALL BUISNESS IS TO MIND YOUR OWN BUISNESS AND IF YOU DON’T HAVE ANY BUISNESS PLEASE DON’T MAKE MY BUISNESS YOUR BUISNESS, LOVE ALWAYS. Whew!
Signs can be specific like NO TRESPASSING JIMMY and DO NOT LITER ON THIS PROPERTY. Others go with a religious twist like the plea on a wheelless, jacked up car reading RETURN THE RIMS AND JAH WILL FORGIVE YOU. I doubt they came back but I know Anguilla solved their problem by staking NO PARKING next to JESUS
Placards are informational and should not be ignored. One rum shop listed drink offerings with the warning, DO NOT STICK YOUR CHEWING GUM UNDER TABLES OR STOOLS, inspiring customers to keep their hands on the bar. A message to drink responsibly read- HOUSE RULES (1) FIRE 911 (2) POLICE 911 (3) PEACE AND LOVE. I especially appreciated the notice in a coconut grove warning- THE DANGER OF FALLING COCONUTS IS VERY REAL- because who would think of that?
Spelling, grammar and punctuation sometimes take a backseat when the mind and hand are busy. NO TREES PASSING was painstakingly carved into a century plant which did little to keep people out. Ray’s Roti Shop in Dominica announced WE DO CARTERING HERE right next to QUICK LAUNDRY SERVICES IS DONE RIGHT HERE. Obviously someone was texting when they wrote the freezer declaration- DONOT OPEN PLZ THANK YOU.
The sandwich board for Antigua’s Passions Restaurant read RICE AND GEENSALAD …COLDSLAW …CLUB SANDWISH but luckily, they got the food right. Shark Attack Hide Out on Union Island probably served great meals but WE SERVE FIGURE LICKING FOOD sort of put me off.
There are signs, thankfully, with manners. BAREBACK OUTSIDE PLEASE is almost as pleasant as HI FRIEND PLEASE DOWN BE SITTIN ON MY FREEZER. It’s obvious that PLEASE KEEP YOUR GOATS AND OTHER LIVESOCK OUT OF FISH MARKET is more courteous than NO SPITTING.
Hand painted and drawn menu boards abound on every island displaying the day’s catch, house specialty and drink concoctions. My favorites are cut in the shape of fish, conch, fruit or other island icons. Smart restaurateurs add color, clever sayings and eye-catching adornments. One menu board cut to the chase with ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS before listing drinks and prices while another reminded customers, RELAX, THE PRICES ARE IN E.C.
I love a corner collection of artisan signs, clustered together at a crossroads like a bunch of teenagers. These over stimulating groupings, like the one in Coral Bay, St. John, probably bring about as many accidents as business but they sure look great.
There are some West Indian signs that no matter how you twist them, just do not make sense. YOU DIRTY RAS BISKIT, crookedly staked in a yard, mystified us for years and it took a while to puzzle out, NO TRUSS-NO FUSS- NO BUSS.
For certain, the most famous of all Caribbean sign is MISTER CREDIT IS DEAD or one of it’s knockoffs. Sometimes MR CREDIT DON’T LIVE HERE and now and then, MR. CREDIT GONE TO AMERICA but most often HELEN WAITE IS IN CHARGE OF CREDIT SO IF YOU WANT CREDIT GO TO HELEN WAIT. Carriacou’s Fat Man Bar philosophically approached the issue with SOME MEN ARE WISE AND SOME ARE OTHERWISE. HE WHO LIKES BORROWING DISLIKES PAYING, yet still, everyone’s after a free drink which Mr. Credit will serve tomorrow.