Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Pretty Package for a Penis

I painted over the penis today. 

It was on my walking path.  Teenagers and spray paint:  A bad combination.  They painted a penis right on my walking path!

I'm retired now and making good on my promise to take a walk every day.  And there it was --- so annoying.  Sometimes I stepped over it; sometimes I stepped right on it.  Either way it did not feel good.

It's hard to measure the impact of such a negative gesture.  Once you know it's there, resist as you might, your eyes are drawn to it.  Damn it!  For those few moments every day I had to think about a penis I didn't want to think about.  Totally uncool. 

What's in the mind of a kid who paints such a thing on a path like that?  Here's a penis for all to see!  Hahahahaha!  (That's a feindish laugh.)

Old ladies, little girls!  Looook!  A PENIS!

Or maybe it's territorial, like a dog peeing judiciously as he goes:  I've been here!  This little square of pavement is MINE all MINE!  Again with the laugh.

Do penis painters go on to other crimes?  Yikes!  I shudder to think.  What's the next logical step?  Wagging it?

Once, at the school where I was principal, I came onto campus at 7:00am to find a kid had painted a giant penis on the asphalt quad over night.  It was easily twenty feet long in yellow paint.  Appropriate somehow.

I imagined that the kid was mad at me for some disciplinary action I had taken.  Quid pro quo.  You suspend me, I paint a penis.  But in this case, I couldn't think of any student who had reason to be mad at me---a rare circumstance for a high school principal! 

Nothing else to do but call Maintenance.  I asked if they would come out and paint over it before brunch time. 

Our District had a very good practice of painting over graffiti and tagging immediately, so it wasn't too long at all before I could see the maintenance crew first standing with their hands on their hips, staring down, and shaking their heads, then bending over the asphalt and painting.  When I looked again a few minutes later, they were gone, leaving a set of cones around the area to protect us from walking on the wet paint.

But then, when the bell rang for brunch and I headed toward the quad to supervise the students, I saw half a dozen of them standing around the edge defined by the cones, looking and laughing.  I joined them to find that the maintenance crew had indeed painted over the yellow paint.  Very carefully, with black paint, distinct on the greying asphalt, they had re-painted the outline of the penis.

"Mrs. Plath," a football player feigned serious concern, "what do you make of this?"  My turn to shake my head. 

Maintenance had to make a second trip out that morning to paint a twenty foot black box on the quad.  Only a hand full of kids and I know what's in the box.

So this morning, I carried a can of my own spray paint to the scene of the crime on my walking path and went to work quickly.  My only regret is that I didn't have concrete-colored paint. 

But let me assure you, my enigmatic silver box is much nicer than its contents.