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.