Originally written and posted 7 December 1999.
Content last modified Saturday, 9 January 2021 .
External links last verified Saturday, 9 July 2016.

A typical diet sign with the universal NO symbol: Just Say No to dieting!

Further Thoughts on the Diet Sign Scourge

by Sonic Purity

The following article was influenced by Doug Zimmer’s Summertime Activism article in the October, November, December 1998 (Volume XXVIII No. 3) edition of the NAAFA Newsletter.

I never thought i would find myself writing an article for the NAAFA Newsletter, yet here i am. I do not consider myself an activist… marches and rallies are not my style. This FA prefers quietly enjoying the company of a fine BBW, sharing our lives together privately and publicly (folks regularly tease us for holding hands everywhere we go and nuzzling like infatuated teenagers), and being supportive as and where possible.

Nevertheless, here i am. Siber Hussy (my True Love) and i started teaming up to pull down diet signs of the general nature of:

Another typical diet sign, this one on yellow plastic.

sometime in 1997. Both of us were sick of private parties with vested interests co-opting public spaces and polluting them with this potentially health-threatening silliness.

At first, upon spotting a candidate for removal, we would park, both exit the car, and make our way to the sign. If it was beyond easy reach (as is usually the case), Siber would cup her hands and become an instant step ladder (manifesting characteristic BBW strength smiley). I would then attempt to yank the thing down, more often than not failing, even with repeated attempts. The usage of plastic signboard and square roofing nails (or similar robust fasteners) demanded a new approach.

We went shopping at our local hardware store, and purchased the longest, strongest crowbar they had.

Big, sturdy crowbar

With the new procedure, Siber (who is usually driving) parks, i get the crowbar out of the trunk, head for the sign, and whip it off. Well, OK, valiantly struggle to pry it off…. This method has proven vastly superior to our former bare-hands approach. When the signs are too high, we make a point of making a special trip to the area with an appropriate ladder. I climb the ladder, with crowbar, and remove the offensive item (usually plopping it in the trunk, otherwise disposing of it in an appropriate recycling or trash container). We continue to use this system today.

With practice comes improved technique. I can now get most signs down on the first couple of attempts, unless they are barely out of reach. Worst case, i pound the bejesus out of the sign with the crowbar, fragmenting it to unreadability. This often knocks the majority of the sign off, even though a small piece may remain tauntingly attached.

I gave a lot of thought to, and we discussed, the legality and ethics of both the posting of the signs and our removal of them. I look at these issues as follows:

In summary, we have no ethical issue with removing the signs from public rights-of-way, and have no reason to believe that anyone engaged in sign removal as described in this article is in violation of any laws. Readers are encouraged to consult legal counsel, laws of one’s local jurisdiction, and form their own opinions.

People often look, yet very seldom have either of us been stopped/questioned by anyone. Once, in California’s Central Valley, i was hailed by a pickup truck driver as i was going about the removal business at a small local crossroads. For a moment, i tensed, wondering if perhaps he was the sign's poster. Turns out he was interested in how well the signs were working in terms of generating business. At a loss for what to say, i said something like “Probably not all that well. I’m taking them down.” We exchanged pleasantries and he went on his way.

Readers may be interested to learn that i have been investigated (drive-by style) by several law enforcement jurisdictions on several occasions, crowbar in hand. They typically watch to see what i am up to. When they see me removing signs rather than installing them, being careful not to harm any person nor property nor interfere with the flow of traffic, they generally go on their way. As i feel i am not breaking any law, i have only a slight adrenalin rush, as i would if stopped by a peace officer at any other time going about my daily business. I usually make a point of being well-dressed and clean-shaven (not always the case with me) when carrying the crowbar in public. I neither brandish nor wave the crowbar around nor do anything likely to be construed as threatening nor act in any manner which would cast doubt on my sanity. I carry the bar in plain sight, not attempting to hide it, and walk calmly with a smile.

We typically take signs down wherever and whenever we spot them, time and tools permitting. From the time we started until about mid-1998, we and our unknown, never-met like-minded clean-up partners did a fairly good job of keeping many parts of the San Francisco Bay Area relatively diet sign-free. Since moving in mid-1998, we are now contributing to restoring the natural beauty of the metropolitan southern California region by diet sign removal. Counting the signs stopped long, long ago - there were just too many of them!

At first, we had no idea what we were going to do with the removed signs. Then, one of the flyers for the summer 1998 NAAFA national convention in Los Angeles provided an answer - earn beads! smiley A number of our cleanup efforts were on display at the convention[2].

In case you’re wondering, the plastic signboard diet signs can be useful to hold onto and reuse. If the sign is not shredded, the back side is most often clean, ready to be used for a sign (or backing for a paper sign) of your own. They make excellent blocking boards for restoring trapezoidalized needlepoint projects into rectangles. We painted one neutral green and fastened it on the power line drop to our house, to prevent the local squirrel population from using the cable as a ramp between the main power line pole freeway and our backyard redwood tree. That’s as close as these diet signs are getting to utility pole mounting or public display. smiley

[1] I was once stopped by the Berkeley (California) Police while posting flyers for a free concert. They made it clear that i was in violation of the law, and would be serving time or paying a fine if i did not take down what i had put up. (I took some down, then left.)

[2] I would like to take this moment to apologize to anyone and everyone who may have needed to clean up the remains of our sign display at the conclusion of the convention. Last-minute changes involving our schedule and those of an intended caretaker/recipient resulted in the signs being abandoned. Apologies!

(Past tense: Was a member, when this article was written. It’s complicated.)