The sign says: “Watch out! Bikes will really be removed!” (I’ll try to make a better picture when I come around again)

The city is littered with signs like that. It seems to be something that insurance companies require businesses to do in order to qualify for glass insurance. And, well, parked bikes can be a nuisance.

Normally I don’t pay attention to the signs. Few people do judging by the amount of bikes and bike remains littered throughout town. But this one stood out. Because it was attached to a locksmith business. That lends an acute credibility to the threat, and sure enough, no bikes to be found anywhere near the building.

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Then there is stuff like the above, seen in France in 2004. According to the sign, this sad building belongs, or belonged, to Caron Securite. This ostensibly is a company that you can pay to look after you and your property. But for whatever reason, they clearly did not deem it necessary to extend the same service to their own property.

What happened here? Did the company intrude on someone else’s turf? Did an established competitor wish to forcefully express his disagreement with capitalist tenets such as competition and free choice? Or did the company have the electrical wiring installed by cousin Alain, who fell on his head as a child and accepts payment in pallets of wine? …

Alas, reality is less dramatic. This is a training ground used to recreate fires. On the other side of the building, a charred sign proclaims, somewhat ironically: “Contre le feu!”

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Coffeeshop “Happyness”, 2001.

And then there’s times when irony descends into naked cynicism.

What cruel business man hides behind this travesty? Weighed down by sorrow and the daily grind, this is where the hopeless come for a few moments of forgetfulness. Not bliss, mind you. For getting stoned offers no escape, but is itself part of their Sisyphean suffering. They buy their Afghan, stir their tea, and smoke in silence. Then shuffle out the door to sleep a dreamless sleep. And wake to do the whole thing over again.

It is a life, to be sure. To be sure, there is a profit to be made and someone has to make it. But what heartless reptile paints this pit of despair in rainbow colors and calls it “Happyness”?