Originally posted March 1995. Added notes in italics in November 2001.

The Big Sign Prank

Or, The Practical Joke That Could Have Gotten Me Arrested For Trespassing, Vandalism, And Criminal Mischief

Summary:
There's a sign somewhere that used to say something that it doesn't say anymore.

Where it is

Before

After

These pictures may look a little goofy. The scanner I was using scanned the colors much too dark; I tried modifying the colors in Photoshop. It kinda sorta worked, as far as I can tell. They're better than the originals, anyway.

The detailed account--full description of what I did and when I did it


The concept

About five miles outside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, there's a big wooden sign with replacable letters. As of mid-1996, it was no longer used, but before then, it was invariably used for those "inspirational pun" sort of sayings. Like "doing good turns doesn't make you dizzy".

It's sitting on farmland. There aren't any street lights, so at nighttime, you can't see anything. It's pretty isolated. So I'm thinking to myself: hey, I have some possiblities here. Why not rearrange the letters some night, like, two in the morning?

The contest

But I stink at anagrams. But then, there's plenty of bright people out there in InternetLand, so why not ask them? Their mission: Rearrange the current saying on the sign: SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE OCCASIONALLY / IT'S NON-FATTENING

The entries

Eleven people sent 37 different anagrams.

The recon trip

I took a picture of the sign around 4pm on Friday, so I'd have a "before" picture.

The winners

The prizes were awarded from the t-shirts I used to sell.

Steve Jacquot - Grand Prize - a Zweblö T-shirt
He wins for his entry: COYOTE IS WILY, PLANTS ELASTIC ON A ROAD-RUNNING FOWL.
Robert Carlin - First Prize - $4 certificate for Zweblö stuff
At a close second for his entry: INCONTINENT DAYS ARE LOUSY -- LOTSA CRAP FLOWING. I might have used this, if it weren't for my vulgarity restriction.
Jenny Smith - Second Prize - $2 certificate
She gets second prize for sending the most valid anagrams with the least number of letters left over.
Dave Polewka - Third Prize - $1 certificate
He wins for being the ninth person to enter, and the first person to make the subject of the email "sign contest" like I asked.
Jeff - Honorable Mention
Noted for giving me the most anagrams that flagrantly flew in the face of the "no vulgarity" rule. (This is extra amusing given that this is the Jeff of crank.com. I probably didn't even realize it at the time, but now, I'm all surprised and honored that he entered.)
Steven Beardall - Honorable Mention
He was the first to enter, and his anagram made me laugh and laugh and laugh.

The Oddness

And then, the next day, something happened that I can't explain.