Unsubtle signs of the Upper East sidewalk

Hey, Mr. Dog, I’m trying to become a tulip here. You gotta problem with that?


One thing New Yorkers excel at is letting you know how they feel. You’re never left wondering what someone (or something) is thinking. They’re gonna let you know — for certain — as these urban folk are an expressive lot of people who have never been called subtle.

One of the many ways New Yorkers communicate is through signs. In addition to the well-known hand gestures, mainly used by cabbies when welcoming NJ drivers, there is also a lot of paper-and-pen and printed-out type signage.

I live in the East 70s where there’s a real quirky, down-home neighborhood feel, and a constant proliferation of homemade placards. A few months ago I was getting a latte at the local coffee shop, and I noticed some spring flowers — tulips planted around the tree on the sidewalk.

And on that tree was posted a sign written by one of the tulips for the neighborhood dogs to read — as they are a literate lot (both the canines and the tulips). It read, in typical New Yawkese: “Hey, Mr. Dog, I’m trying to become a tulip here. You gotta problem with that?”

Badda bing badda boom! Even Upper East Side flowers are tough in this town.

There certainly is some type of feud going on between the trees and flowers and the peeing pooches. Just as the “don’t tread on me” flag was an important banner in our country’s fight for independence from England, so the flowers of Manhattan are fighting for their right to be watered only by water. “Don’t pee on me,” is their revolutionary cry.

The flora have enlisted schoolchildren in their fight — a smart move, as schoolchildren usually have magic markers, posterboard and other sign-making tools of the trade at the ready — and some willing teachers to help them out. In front of an elementary school in the east 60s, there is a sign propped in a flower bed addressed to the people belonging to the full-bladder beagles: “Please keep your dog’s urine away from this tree.” Now, one cannot get much more specific in communication than this.

Another sign takes a different, less-scolding, us-versus-them tack. Enlisting one of the enemy as a spokesdog for the cause, this sign is a model of social engineering, featuring celebrity Westie Street Smart Paws (Mr. Street Smart Paws to you, and S.S. Paws to his closest friends) instructing his brethren to beat it. The sign reads: “Dog urine damages trees. Street Smart Paws say, ‘Please curb your dog.'” Hmm, now that I look at the plural usage of the verb “say,” I am wondering if there is more than one Mr. Street Smart Paws. Or is it that dogs who don’t evacuate on a begonia are all Street Smart Paws? Maybe it’s a club of well-behaved city dogs and not one celebrity? But then who’s that Westie saying “Arf!” on the sign? I think that’s Mr. Street Smart Paws, and I’m sticking with it.

More to come on signs and other happenings from New York. But first I have to go outside and “water” a flower.

Comments (2) Add yours ↓
  1. Jan Riley

    Hey, Mr. Smart Paws, any chance you could visit down here? My neighborhood in eastern NC has its share of dogs, some with conscientious plastic-bag wielding owners, others not so much. And our trees and flowers are, like some of our humans, mostly illiterate. We admire the cultured ones in NYC and thank the author for a peek at her “‘hood.”

    June 6, 2012 Reply
  2. Cretin


    June 6, 2012 Reply

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