Welcome to Temporary Anxiety

Given the security measures surrounding modern air travel, it’s virtually impossible to end up on the wrong flight. Unless your plane is diverted unexpectedly, you’re going to land in the city you expected to. And yet, it’s nice to hear the pilot come over the public address system after you land, announcing that you’ve arrived in the right place and, hopefully, the weather is nice, too.

And on the landing approach, maybe you’ll find some landmarks which confirm where you are. Or, maybe a sign or two. Like, say, this:


It’s clear as day: “Welcome to Cleveland,” painted on the roof of a building near the airport.

The only problem?

That roof is in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee and Cleveland are about a seven-hour drive from one another, so you could imagine the panic attacks the sign may cause. That’s OK as far as Mark Gubin, the owner of the roof in question is concerned. Gubin, now a retired photographer and artist, first created the sign in 1978, when his assistant pointed out that his building was on the approach flight path for planes landing at Mitchell International Airport. The assistant suggested a “Welcome to Milwaukee” greeting, but Gubin’s prankster side got the better of him.

While many appreciate the joke, not everyone finds it so funny. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that “during his many media interviews, Gubin has made disparaging remarks about that city, in jest or because he didn’t think he was on the air yet. That brought him hate mail. Flight attendants also could do without the extra work when nervous passengers press the call light after seeing the sign.”

The city of Milwaukee isn’t a big fan, either — in the years since, the city has passed an ordinance prohibiting similar displays. Gubin’s, though, is grandfathered in — so long as he doesn’t change it. That may be okay, as the sign’s popularity has also made the joke less stressful for travelers. As WISN TV, the Milwaukee ABC affiliate, reported, “pilots are used to it now and know to advise passengers that their eyes are fooling them.”

Bonus fact: In 1989, Paramount Pictures produced the movie “Major League,” the fictional story of the hapless Cleveland Indians baseball team, their terrible players, long-suffering fans, and an unlikely (and again, fictional) pennant chase. Unfortunately for Paramount, the real Cleveland Stadium proved hard to schedule — the home schedules of the (real) Indians and the NFL’s Cleveland Browns were inflexible and proved unforgiving. As a result, Paramount had to find another place for principle photography. Perhaps Mr. Gubin’s roof decoration predicted history: Paramount decided on Milwaukee’s County Stadium.

From the Archives: Crease and Desist: Probably the best letter ever written. (Involves Cleveland.)

Related: “Pranklopedia: The Funniest, Grossest, Craziest, Not-Mean Pranks on the Planet!” by Julie Winterbottom. 4.6 stars on 87 reviews, and while it’s for 2nd to 7th graders, who doesn’t like a good prank?