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The Art of Making People Go Away

As we’ve seen before, anything that exists over a period of time and comes in different shapes, sizes, or colors will eventually become a collector’s item. Yes, there are people who collect Do Not Disturb signs from hotels. After all, they vary greatly from one hotel to another and over time. Some are simple disposable paper signs you can slip over a doorknob, but others are distinctive, cheeky, or even works of art. Edoardo Flores has over 8,700 Do Not Disturb signs from all over the world, and tells us how varied they are.

“The first widespread use was probably in the beginning of the 20th century, mostly in the U.S., in some of the more prestigious hotels where discretion was the better part of valor,” he says. “DND signs have also been known for covering up crimes, or at least, delaying the discovery.”

Do Not Disturb signs are most commonly made out of paper or card stock—they either hang on the door knob or insert into the electric lock. Some are die-cut into shapes like locks, keys, animals, or seashells. In places where the door opens to the outside, the Do Not Disturb sign may be a small sand bag that hangs on the door knob by a rope. While many DND signs have a “make-up room” message on the back, not all do. Signs that have “Do Not Disturb” messaging in multiple languages can have hilarious errors.

Paper signs can feature gorgeous designs or silly comics. In the United Kingdom and the United States, the focus seems to be on wordplay or witty text, using phrases like “My bed is so comfortable that I’m still in it,” “Beauty sleep in progress,” “Leave me alone,” “Taking a post-lobster buffet nap,” “Constructing a pillow fort,” or “Go away.” For example, a door hanger for Clarion Hotels, part of the Choice Hotels group in the U.S., gives a checklist of reasons “Why I Can’t Be Disturbed.” The list includes being tired from food, exercise, and business, but the option that’s already checked is “I’m trying to call myself on the two-line phone while surfing the Internet in my underwear.”

You might be surprised at how many different ways you can tell the maid and the rest of the world to leave you alone. Read about the signs and see an extensive gallery from Flores’ collection at Collectors Weekly.

(Image credit: Edoardo Flores)

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I always wonder about the double-sided sign ("don't wake me up" / "please make up my room") and how many times miscreants flip 'em around to mess with the occupant inside the room.
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