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Stop, Thief!

Vandalism as a sign of the times.

Of the many types of vandals in the world -- the blackout-drunk-smashy-smashy vandal, the politico-Gandhi-graffiti-be-the-change-you-want-to-see-in-the-world vandal, the pump-don't-work-'cause-the-vandals-took-the-handles vandal -- perhaps the oddest is the street-sign-interior-design vandal. While most people eye an octagonal red sign at an intersection as a helpful warning to come to a stop and possibly avoid an accident, the street-sign-interior-design vandal sees that sign the same way an insecure, closet-homosexual hunter from a Hemingway novel eyes big game: "Oh, you think you're so big and tough, stop sign, all red and eight-sidey? Well, we'll see how tough you are when your head is hanging on my fucking wall!" These vandals are indeed a queer breed -- although I have to admit that at times in my life, I've spoken their language.

In order to remove myself from any sort of legal repercussions, however, the following tale relates the simple, misbegotten adventure of two penguins who longed for the signage from a beloved street in the area where they'd grown up. Home from college and blindly drunk one eve, my friend and I...the two penguins pranced merrily about the neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning. One penguin suggested to the other that they steal street signs off a favorite avenue to take to their respective college dorm rooms, far across the country. Seeing as how the hour was late, the area was desolate and about 120 ounces of Country Club malt liquor was assaulting and battering its way through his veins, the second penguin agreed, and the two set out to wrench from the ground the pole to which two such signs were attached.

After twenty minutes of wrenching, the deed was done, and the penguins triumphantly carted both signs and pole to one of the penguins' back yards, where they each removed a street sign, clumsily and drunkenly ripping open their knuckles with sharp tools in the process, and bid each other adieu. Eight hours later, the penguin who would later go on to write a humor column for the free weekly rag awoke with a shock in his bed. "Well, slap my flightless, arduous-breeding-process black ass," he thought. "There was a stop sign on that pole!" In his drunken stupor, he hadn't noticed -- but in his hangover guilt, all he could picture was some randomly scheduled retarded toddlers parade (RTP) heading right through the neighborhood, only to be flattened in the intersection by a Hummer coming right at them, oblivious to the fact that there was normally a stop sign there. This was too much for the penguin to stomach. He ran to his friend's house, awakened him, and then the two penguins guiltily marched the sign back to the spot where they had taken it.

Thankfully, there were no RTP corpses to be found.

But there are still dangers lurking in the land, including at the intersection of 17th Avenue and Pearl Street. Because it was there that the penguin...that I saw two young street-sign-interior-design vandals jack a stop sign in broad daylight. The efficiency with which this duo absconded with city property was stunning. Whereas those fictional penguins of yore had to remove the entire pole, the teenage hoodlums merely walked up to the stop sign, removed it from the pole and headed for their vehicle. It was clear that they had unscrewed the bolts some time before, but how, when? Those things are screwed on tight! I admired their efficiency and poise, but I was also alarmed by their callous disregard for safety. It had taken me getting drunk...the penguin had to get shitfaced to even contemplate such a move, and he was just stealing for nostalgia's sake. These shameless vandals clearly wanted a stop sign, any stop sign, and were willing to remove it from a busy intersection at eleven in the morning! I wanted to say something to them, to let them know the remorse that the penguin had felt so long ago, but when the vandals looked me in the eyes, I froze. They knew that I represented no threat to them.

Vandar.

Still, I want to know what these bold, street-sign-interior-design vandals did with that sign. Did they take it to impress the ladies? "Dude, I'm telling you, we get a stop sign in here, we'll be swimming in trim. We won't even need AXE body spray." Personally, I try to avoid any wall decorations that encourage stopping. Or maybe they had more elaborate designs on that sign. Maybe they are true urban vigilantes who know that particular corner poses no threat, so they removed the sign to a more perilous corner of the city, where RTPs pass hourly and the devastation is obscene. Because of this bold move, those children are now safe.

I like to believe this was the scenario. Then again, sometimes I like to pretend I'm a penguin.

 
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