Monday, February 8, 2010

Melbourne Sign Language

When I go to a new city, I always take time to examine signs. There are interesting and sometimes funny differences in the way cities use signs, and Melbourne certainly kept me entertained.

In most places around the world that I've paid attention to such things, pedestrians are shown on signs as gender-neutral walking figures (although in Berlin you sometimes get the guy with the jaunty hat). In Melbourne you get the full walking man on street lights, but you just get legs on signs:

Legs ahead

Ahh, here are the legs

I loved the odd habit in London of naming streets after cuts of meat (Haunch of Venison, Shoulder of Mutton, e.g.) seemingly without any humorous intent whatsoever. Melbourne seems to have taken to naming streets with a wink.

This looked better after dark, but there was a man peeing on the wall under it when I went at night, so I decided to pass on the night photo.

And all this time I thought Gotham was based on New York City.
(Sadly, this is named after early Melbourne settler John Batman, not Bruce Wayne)

It's a shame they couldn't include the lightning bolt

Huh, what?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

How to piss off an entire hotel full of people at 6:45 a.m.

Anyone who stays in hotels enough will eventually have the fire alarm experience: loud sirens, generally in the dead of night, confusion, fumbling with clothes, standing for ages on the street having forgotten some key item of clothing, the arrival of the fire department, and it's inevitably a false alarm. Someone was sneaking a smoke in room 215. Broken sprinkler from a thrown shoe in 422. Power cut out on the 5th floor.

Melbourne after dark

I was in Melbourne staying at a hotel that had just recently opened for business, one of the only places available as hotels were booked up for the Australian Open. It was an infant hotel that had yet to figure out quite what it means to be a real hotel and had opened before it was really ready for guests. No phone, no clock (luckily I brought one), no iron, no hair drier, a bathroom fan the never turned on, a light in the closet that never turned off — and prices that would lead you to assume that they would have had all of these sorted out. I had been staring murderously for two nights at the blinking device on my hotel room's ceiling. Every 5 seconds it would flash. No, 8 seconds that time - wait, back to 5 seconds but this time with a double flash. What the hell was it doing? It looked like it was trying desperately to find something to detect. I closed my eyes, but the light was still visible through my eyelids. Die flashy thing, die. It must have sensed my hateful thoughts, because the following morning it decided to play dirty.

After a shower in the small windowless bathroom with broken fan, I cracked the door to let in some air. Less than a minute later the piercing fire alarm started wailing through my room. I immediately assumed it was me that had done it. Hoping illogically that it was somehow isolated to my room, I swatted helplessly at the screaming and red-flashing detector on the ceiling. No reset button. Nothing I tried did anything to stop the scream of the siren.

I looked at the clock. It was 6:45 a.m. Fuck fuckity-fuck.

I pulled on some clothes and hustled out the door barefoot. Sure enough, sleepy-eyed guests in pajamas were already shuffling down the stairs to the street looking none too happy with the situation. As we reached the door, fire trucks were already pulling up in front.

"It was me officer, all I did was take a shower." Hell with that, I was staying quiet. The pajama mob might turn on me.

It occurred to me at some point that perhaps I wasn't actually the one to blame. There were dozens of other people in the hotel. Maybe some other guest had desperately needed a morning cigarette and caused this whole debacle. Can steam even set off a smoke detector? Crappy smoke detector if so - should just call it a "stuff in the air" detector. If it was a shower, maybe it was someone else's shower that set it off?

A stuff in the air detector much like the one in my hotel (photo by ixographic)

The firemen emerged after a predictably long time and told us we could all go back inside. Filing up the stairs past the firemen, one called out, "We're looking for someone that just took a shower - room one eight."

Shit. I was in room 18 and my hair was still wet. He repeated, "Room one eight." Is that how Australians say 18? He had to be talking about me. Resisting the urge to whistle out loud, I walked past the fireman without a word. This is not the recently showered droid you're looking for. In my defense, what was he going to do, reprimand me for my cleanliness?

I never heard a thing from the hotel management after the incident: no polite note asking me to keep my bathroom door closed until they fixed the problem, nothing at all. It was a good thing that I realized what the problem was so that it didn't repeat itself every morning for the next week. If you happened to be staying in the same hotel and were awoken by the alarm, my apologies for the rude awakening, but if you're looking to place blame, place it on the evil flashy thing in room 18.