Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Little Mystery.

Almost every day when I'm out walking I see this yellow utility box.

Someone worked a math problem on the side of the box, using a broad magic marker and a very large hand. Each number is about 6 - 8 inches tall.

Now, when you're walking about, you often see codes and symbols spray-painted on the streets by various city employees, describing the locations of various electrical and phone and water and sewage lines, in preparation for tearing up the road or somesuch thing. You also often see graffiti, highly stylized signatures and "tags" spraypainted on just about anything that doesn't move, that some see as art and others see as vandalism.

So here's what's bugging me. What is this long-division problem?

At first this box just blends into the environment. The numbers have the look of something that a utility worker would have left behind for some officially sanctioned reason. But if you pass by it everyday, and eventually look at it closely, you realize that it's not a code or anything that carries any kind of significant information. It's 27 divided by 4.

Would someone working on the phone lines work such a problem on the side of a utility box? This isn't spray-painted on a piece of road that is going to be torn up - it's been sitting there for months, a permanent addition to the landscape. Wouldn't a utility worker use a piece of scrap paper? And wouldn't this person be able to work out that six fours fit in twenty-seven in his or her head? I kinda hope so!

So, I'm guessing it's not something left behind by someone actually working on the phone lines. In that case it must be a graffito.

But who would bother to work a long division problem as their "tag"? It doesn't identify the tagger in any way, the writing isn't stylized, it makes no statement beyond the answer to the math problem. . . If it's graffiti, it's the least effective example I've ever seen.

Or, maybe it's the most effective. It's the only one I've felt compelled to "blog" about, anyway.


shadows and clouds said...

...strange! this could have been one of the weird little mysteries in the film 'Amelie'! happy new year to you all!

Anonymous said...

this could in actuality be the tag. it may not be someone's name, but it's an image, much like shepard fairy's (probably spelled that wrong) andre the giant faces he started putting everywhere, that has now turned into an empire for the artist.

it would be cool to see math problems popping up everywhere...kind of the antonym of from the left side of the brain.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a tag - innovation in graffiti. Its apparent lack of purpose causes it to defy classification and resolution. Sticks in the brain like a thorn - I like it!