Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Is H.O.T. the Worst Public-Safety Acronym Ever?

If you ride BART, you may have seen safety advisories urging you to report anything "H.O.T."

What does H.O.T. stand for? Hidden, Obviously suspicious and not Typical for the location.

Setting aside the fact that it's impossible to call the authorities and say, "Hello, I've just seen something H.O.T." without giggling, this is an absolutely terrible acronym and mnemonic device.

Let's say I spot something odd on BART and need to remember if I should report it. So I summon the H.O.T. system from the recesses of my mind.

Even if I remember what the letters stand for, it's not going to be much help:
—H is for Hidden. This one makes sense. A hidden package is something to report.
—O is for Obviously. Obviously what? If someone is obviously gay, should I report that?
—T is for Typical. This is the worst part of the whole thing, because you're actually looking for something NOT typical. (It's as if LOL stood for "Laughing (not) Out Loud.") So a person has to remember that the T stands for Typical, and then remember that they actually should be remembering the opposite of that.

There hasn't been this strained an acronym since "Come Pet the P.U.S.S.Y."