The Power of a Sign


Every time I did a load of laundry I contemplated the paper sign you see above. It was like one of those paper tags that come on pillows that say “Do Not Remove”. It just makes you want to rip those suckers right off on the spot.

Of course, there was a tiny difference. Rip off a pillow tag and what’s the worst thing that can happen? You lose the cleaning instructions or country of origin. Or maybe a few bits of foam or feathers. Or the clerk gets really annoyed with you and makes you buy it. Flip a breaker that has emphatic instructions that it is not to be flipped under any circumstance and who knew what might happen? Well, Mike obviously. But not me.

I wanted to know. I wanted to know so bad.

Some days I fought the urge to open the breaker box and flip every switch, just to see what would happen. Maybe a big, burly, angry Mike would show up at the door in a rage. “What the hell’s the matter with you lady? Did you not read what it said on the box? You were supposed to call me first!”

Images of explosions, chain reactions and irate neighbours poking their heads out of their apartments up and down the hallway danced in my head. I pictured myself standing in the parking lot surrounded by all our neighbours and a fleet of fire trucks.

“What do you suppose happened?” someone would ask.

“Some twit flipped a breaker without calling Mike,” the Fire Chief would yell, as we watched the building collapse.

So I continued to do laundry and wonder about breaker boxes and Mike. And then came the kitchen light dilemma.

We don’t have a light over our kitchen table. This has always seemed like a strange oversight to me. Almost as strange as the daunting note taped to our breaker box. As our days began to get shorter, the lack of light in the kitchen area began to eat at me. I decided to see if one could be installed.

The electrician came by just to take a quick look and somewhat unhappily sized up the situation. Turns out installing a ceiling light in a finished apartment is no small task, but it can be done. Before he left he said, “Oh, and call Mike before I come back to see why you aren’t supposed to flip a breaker.”

I was delighted. At last I had a legitimate reason to phone Mike and get to the bottom of the mystery. I punched the by now familiar numbers into my phone and waited with great anticipation. The number was no longer in service. Mike had left the building.

I phoned the contractors that had built our condo.

“I can’t call Mike,” I explained.

Turns out the sign was temporarily taped in place for safety reasons during construction, but should have been removed two years ago when they finished. All this time it turns out we were free to switch our breakers as we saw fit. A fact which has been a total buzz kill. Doing laundry will never be the same.

I am going to miss Mike. But I won’t miss eating in the dark.