I need my own turtle sign. A dedicated perimeter of safety when stresses encroach beyond my margins and drum a low, long tone in my ears in constancy.
I would dangle that sign around my neck and carry confidence that people approach cautiously— step the widest path from my pouty stance.
Only a few days after spotting an artfully hand-drawn beach turtle sign, I wished my own as I ventured to submit a form to the State of Hawaii— up the stairs, past a security guard, down the long hallway, past the second security guard, and through the double doors.
There I stood solemnly, in a line of none.
Demarked on the walls were signs of all shapes and colors, announced mainly by capitalized letters— they must really mean it. This empty room contained crowd control barriers to prevent mayhem. The sign indicates where the public stands and, if first in line, RING THE BELL FOR ASSISTANCE.
Taped notices indicate to mask up dutifully, read all warnings, fill out all paperwork before approaching the inner sanctum window, shut off all cell phones, and use the clean pens— then place them in the dirty pens holder as directed. The BE AWARE YOU ARE BEING RECORDED placard screamed within my peripheral.
I drew a deeper breath and timidly tapped on the tinny bell once, twice, as directed on the note taped above the bell. I peered beyond the plexiglass window screen/shield into a large empty office. I counted five seemingly abandoned office desks with dark computers.
Stacks of colored paper clearly labeled PINK, YELLOW, and WHITE, each in their proper bins beside an oversized silent copy machine which also boasted several signs for the employee’s warning. Scrap Paper Bin, SHUT OFF WHEN DONE, and CHECK PAPER SIZE BEFORE STARTING.
Halfway into a minute and nearing the end of my head rendition of A Hard Day’s Night, I spotted an office person as she walked beside the empty desks. She sauntered toward my window with no facial expression— how is that possible? Too much Botox? I smiled at the mannequin anyway— for the sake of humanity.
I gingerly pushed my completed form through the tiny slot toward Botox, who quickly rejected it. She tipped her head with mocked patience as she explained through a tight jaw. Her left hand grabbed several papers and a pamphlet.
A stapler cachunked in one motion, and she slid the entire wad back through the slot.
Turning to an otherwise empty room, I held a murderous grip on the paperwork shoved toward me by the now smiling (or is it a smirk?) office personnel. I vowed my return as soon as my swimming head breached the water’s surface and the bubbles quit sounding effervescence in my ears.
Note to self: I’m not actually drowning in this newest paperwork.
Desperate for my own turtle sign, I bolted directly to the parking lot and sanctity of my little gray car. I seethed silently at the steering wheel with my mess of fluttering paperwork— grateful for the ramped-up air conditioning on my forehead. I dug in my purse for a dirty pen and began afresh with the gushing firehose of entrenched bureaucracy.
STAY TEN FEET AWAY FROM THIS BEACHED TURTLE UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE (my sign).
By Diana Warren