Maybe It’s a Sign? Considering Mystery Signs

sign nailed to tree reading "Barber School?"
Pretty sure that’s not a barber school, but now we have to question everything. A mystery sign in Kilbuck Township

So many questions! One chunk of wood nailed to another is attached to the outside of a residential garage. Next to the wood hangs a length of braided twine with a sharp nail at the end. The wood is painted with a cryptic message: Its for my bac but by a man’s hand.

Bac may or may not have been cut off—or misspelled. Is it for the back? What is it—the nail on the string? Does this serve a real purpose—that’s hard to imagine—or is it entirely symbolic? Assuming the latter, the message is lost on me. Maybe it’s a Biblical or cultural reference your heathen author just doesn’t get?

It’s the very definition of a mystery sign—a public notice set out for the world to consume but not entirely clear what the message is or who it’s meant for.

small sign on cinderblock wall reading "It's for my bac... but by a man's hand."
“Its for my bac… but by a man’s hand.” The Run
large roadside sign saying "No quid pro quo"
“No quid pro quo.” Duquesne

With some signs the mystery may not be that great but they’re still worth review and inclusion. We may assume the No quid pro quo sign [photo above]—photographed in Duquesne during some of the former guy’s obvious quid pro quo activity—is the work of one of the ex-president’s supporters expressing an opinion … but it still looks way goofy absent any other context.

Anyone who travels Babcock Blvd. in the summer knows the corn guys by Hastings Hardware, but still, seeing a lone day-glow CORN SOON sign [below] just feels like a cruel taunt. Found glasses [below] suggests someone did exactly that … but not any way to return the lost item to its rightful owner.

Handmade sign on utility pole reading "Corn Soon"
But when will there be corn NOW? “CORN SOON.” North Hills
hand-written sign with drawing of eyeglasses and text "Found glasses"
“Found glasses.” Lawrenceville
sign in front yard with spray-painted message "Who is John Galt?"
I don’t know—you tell me! “Who is John Galt?” Stanton Heights

Others aren’t so obvious. Who is John Galt? [above] has an easily Googleable explanation, but it doesn’t explain why a Stanton Heights homeowner feels the need to decorate their front yard with this message.

A chain link fence in a Bloomfield alley hosts an odd specimen. No violins, the sign declares, along with a fine folksy painting of the instrument, no crying, no crying [below]. We like to think violins are purely metaphor here—that crying is the only real objection—but where’s that coming from? Not a creature was stirring when the picture was snapped, but perhaps it rains with teardrops of a thousand tortured toddlers at other times of day.

hand-painted sign with violin and text "No violins, no crying"
Cellos only. “No violins. No crying. No crying.” Bloomfield
hand-written sign in barber shop window reading "See you Tuesday Guess Why""
You don’t want me guessing why. “See you Tuesday Guess ? Why.” Millvale

Every one of these gems has a story and it’s likely we won’t find out the explanations to any of them—and that’s OK. With the number of messages we humans push out to the world every single day, I’ll take mystery over hate, exploitation, cruelty, or narcissism any time. Wondering ain’t such a bad thing. Plus, like the sign says, … And that’s life right?

Sign on utility pole reading "Street continues around corner."
Perhaps the most Pittsburgh sign ever. “Street continues around corner.” Troy Hill
hand-painted sign on utility pole reading "Slow kid playin"
“Slow kid playin.” Millvale
wooden board with cryptic symbols painted on it nailed to utility poles
Runes, Oakland
wooden sign nailed to utility pole with hand-painted message "CJ's Spot"
“CJ’s Spot.” Hill District
cardboard sign in window of home reading "Someone else removed the stop work order."
Sure they did. “Someone else removed the stop work order.” Spring Garden
hand-written sign in Zip-Loc bad stapled to utility pole
“Psalm 91 over this neighborhood.” North Side
mirror in front yard of home with message "Please do turn around here."
Vampires, you’re on your own. “Please do turn around here.” The Run
hand-written sign in barber shop window reading "Closed until Tuesday for court stuff"
“Closed until Tuesday for court stuff.” Millvale
handwritten sign in hot dog shop window reading "We are completely out of chili ... sorry."
If only every restaurant was as up front about their chili status. “We are completely out of chili … sorry.” Frankie’s, Lawrenceville
empty aluminum serving trays in deli display case with Post-It note reading "Not for consumption. Only for religion purpose."
“Not for consumption. Only for religion purpose.” Scranton
Handmade sign reading "JACK"
You don’t know Jack. “JACK.” Lawrenceville
color printout of cat stapled to utility pole
Cat, just a cat. Spring Garden
pair of doors in brick building, one of which has handmade sign reading "ACES"
“ACES.” Vandergrift
hand-painted sign on utility pole reading "NO OUTLET"
“NO OUT LET.” Millvale
white paper taped to cinderblock wall with no text remaining
A mystery [blank/sunbleached] sign among mystery signs! Lawrenceville
hand-written sign left by highway
“Sun Ra / Alice Coltrane. I miss my friends …” Millvale
handmade wooden sign with section missing attached to utility pole
What was here before the middle went missing? Polish Hill/Strip District
plastic butterfly and small sign reading "... and that's life" on cinderblock wall
It sure is. “… and that’s life.” The Run