Hold it right there: looking for a little relief

phlushblue“What do you think of semiotics?” an owlish interrogator asked me.

This was deep in the drifts of a previous century, shortly after I’d been named movie critic for a now-dead daily newspaper, and my questioner’s tone made it clear that he needed to know whether I was a serious fellow worth paying attention to or just another star-struck hack.

“Not much,” I replied, knowing I was consigning myself in one mind, at least, to eternal hackdom. “It’s an ugly-sounding word, don’t you think?”

And that was the end of that.

I still think semiotics is an ugly-sounding word, and if you bring it up in conversation I’m going to have a sudden desire to slip off discreetly to the no-host bar.

A good sign, on the other hand, can be a wondrous thing, and so I offer a heartfelt tip of the Art Scatter hat to the creators of the one above. There can be no mistaking the meaning of those crossed legs, in any language or any culture on any spot on the planet.

The sign just came my way from a Portland-based group called PHLUSH, or Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human, and although we can joke about it all day long (feel free to insert your own sophomoric wordplay here) it’s a serious issue, and I’m glad PHLUSH is around to tussle with it. Take a look at the group’s Web site here.

What is an occasional inconvenience for most of us can be a matter of both humiliation and extreme physical discomfort for others who lack ordinary middle-class comforts. And around the world, hygiene or the lack of it can literally be a matter of life or death. That’s no symbol: That’s reality.

In the meantime, PHLUSH is planning to hand out its Public Restroom Awards, to “honor those whose efforts have increased public restroom availability in Portland,” at 5:30 p.m. March 24 at Orchid Salon, 203 NW Second Ave. in Portland’s Old Town. The public’s invited to show up and take a seat.

The need to go when you’re on the go can lead to ridiculous situations. I’ve been known to dash into a coffee shop and order a shot of Joe just so I can use the bathroom, and think about the long-term futility of that.

And in case you’re wondering what all this has to do with art, which is what we here at Art Scatter are supposedly in business to talk about, check this.

So, good luck, PHLUSH. We’re in your corner.
It’s a sign of the times.