Though you have to scan in to enter the fitness center near my office, you can walk right out the back with no trouble. The back door communicates directly to my office, so I always slip out that way. A big sign on the door reads Caution Emergency Exit Alarm Will Sound, but it never has. The sign fails at its ruse.
Of course, one of these days the fire code will catch up with us and the fitness center will have to turn the emergency exit alarm back on. Then, for about nine weeks, the alarm will go off at least three times a day as everyone used to slipping out the back learns that the alarm actually works now.
I wonder about the easiest way to prevent these mishaps when the day comes. My thought: a sign, handwritten in Sharpie, taped to the door which reads: The Emergency Exit Alarm Actually Works Now. Don’t Open This Door Or You’ll Set It Off. A handwritten sign looks different enough that it draws the eye. And you can’t miss big Sharpie block lettering.
My follow-up thought: rather than activate the alarm, why not just put up that sign? If you want people to stop using that door, you can turn on the alarm and post the sign warning people, or you can just post the sign. An incentive to create an effect is an incentive to create the appearance of an effect, after all. Sure, an actual alarm would make me safer, but if the sign makes me think the alarm works, then the sign makes me think I’m safer. And really, thinking I’m safer is almost as good as actually being safer. Almost.
I think about these things when a TSA goon in a short-sleeved dress shirt rifles through my toiletries kit, shaking my bottle of contact lens solution as if that proves it’s not a bomb.