Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Swimming hazards are amplified.

The emerging waterfront park of Louisville deserves separate attention through a special posting, but until I have explored and researched it more I’ll leave viewers with this bizarre warning sign in the water element, a linear pool that is clearly sequestered from the actual Ohio River:

While I’m aware that there are twice as many parts hydrogen to every part oxygen, is this ever cause for alarm? Clearly I’m not the only one to ruminate on this, but most agree that it must be a joke. (It’s even featured prominently on the waterfront’s website.) If it really were heavy water (deuterium oxide, or 2H20) it could prove highly dangerous. But if that were the case, one would hope there’d be more than a “no swimming” pictorial warning beside it. Clearly, on a hot summer day, the local children are ignoring both warnings:

Apparently, another concerned onlooker took the trouble to investigate and the city officials were forced to lay down their hand:

"It seems authorities, tired of swimmers splashing around in the fountains and leery of the possibility of bacteria developing in the water, were hoping the public would be scared away by the foreboding signs — even though there was nothing amiss. David Karem, executive director of the Waterfront Development Corp., said he had the signs made in the hopes that a lack of understanding of the chemical makeup of water and the association of hydrogen to dangerous weapons such as the hydrogen bomb would keep the fountains people-free... Unfortunately for Karem, the hot summer days and a few good students have him fighting what he knows might be a losing battle."
Juxtaposing such a message with an actual “no swimming” command dilutes both the irony intended to give the written sign humor, as well as the implied seriousness of the literal request for the public not to swim. The public ignores both. The one identifiably successful impact of the sign is that it has evolved into a sort of pop-cultural meme, popping up now and then in the blogosphere by hapless writers—like me. Here’s hoping future expansions of the Louisville waterfront include similarly idiosyncratic signage; even better if the signage achieves its imperative goal, or that it’s actually funny.


Anonymous said...

Actually, that fountain contains treated tap water going into the Ohio River. It's a really huge waste and I've always criticized the city for it.