Ambiguous Visual Controls

Ambiguous Visual Controls: Waste Please

By Jon Miller Updated on May 22nd, 2017

There is something sinister about a place that calls itself “the happiest place on earth”. How did they arrive at that superlative conclusion? Did they benchmark GNH (Gross National Happiness) against other locations on earth? Experience casts some doubts on this claim. First, most of the rides in this park induce terror in small children, and even some adults who shall go unnamed. The queue times for said rides are 30-40 minutes for a 15 second roller coaster experience or even a 3-minute ride through a benign cartoon village, bringing value added times to the 0.8% to 10% range at best. That is happiness? Sunshine, music and bright colors may have caused me to overlook these signs, if not for the message staring me in the face as I went to dispose of the output of my consumerism: waste please.

What? For a moment I could feel the happiness of the place subconsciously urging me to overlook this ambiguous but probably harmless visual control. But my training paid off, I resisted and took a photo. But surely this was a case of an attempt at parsimony gone wrong, resulting in an odd arrangement of words. “Please dispose of your waste” or even “waste here please” can be implied from the two words ubiquitous words around the park: waste please.

These words haunted me like the mechatronic skeletons from the haunted house. And sure enough, later in the day my suspicions were confirmed. Here was the evidence that “waste please” was not just a poor choice of words but a subtle message of command towards visitors to this kingdom.

Recycle please. Waste please. Enjoy your stay. These verbs are in the imperative mood, issuing a clear but polite signal that we must waste. And as this is California, we must also recycle. Most importantly, we are here to have fun and be happy.

Our hosts were kind enough to keep the lights on well into the night, even sending us off at 930PM with a grand firework show at the cost of about 0.6% of their annual revenues, according to some sources. It’s hard to hold a few hundred sinister ubiquitous ambiguous visual controls against a cast and crew so dedicated to improving the quality of our life. I am now filled with “fun facts”, those dry statistics regarding the operation of an industrial amusement complex magically that become entertaining by the addition of one three-letter word. As I left the park, for some reason there was a thought that refused to leave my head: it’s a small world after all.

  1. Bryan

    April 8, 2010 - 5:16 am

    “Sinister”? Really? Yet you shelled out hundreds of dollars to be seduced! Sometimes us leansters need to know when to turn it off, John! 🙂

  2. Brandon

    April 8, 2010 - 7:59 am

    That’s funny, I took a picture of a garbage can just like that last time I went to the happiest place on earth. I understood it the same way you did, as an invitation to waste. However, that is still one place that I always enjoy visiting.

  3. Tony

    April 15, 2010 - 9:43 am

    Not only did I snap the same picture, and wonder about the subconscious directive it implied, but it bothered me enough to go searching the Internet for the phrase, looking for corroboration that I was not the only one that saw the negative implication of the imperative. I have wondered whether these are a carry over from a simpler time in that magical place.

  4. Heath

    April 16, 2010 - 8:24 am

    I don’t go to other amusement parks because they tend to be dirty. I think that means these visual controls are helping to add value. When I read them I understand “Please isolate waste to these receptacles so it does not interfere with all the other value adding experiences throughout the park.” That is totally “Lean”. Waste happens! If you can’t remove it you must isolate it.

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