I feel it’s important to first set the scene that prompted my initial investigation into this particular genre of everyday writing. There was once a time I had procrastinated on a class project for just a little too long (as many college students have likely experienced) and found myself heading to Strozier Library at 4:30 in the morning. It was the last place I wanted to be, but at least I had coffee to keep me company. So, there I was, sitting alone in a booth inside the dimly-lit inner Starbucks at an ungodly hour of the day. In another unconscious effort to delay working on my project I decided to start reading the writing on the wall and saw the following:
It’s interesting to think about just how impactful these little messages can be. I had once been a disgruntled student making every attempt to start a project, yet my mood completely changed once I saw this graffiti. I couldn’t help but laugh at the crassness of the response and immediately sent photos of it to my friends. It was memorable, being the first thing that came to my mind when asked to archive different artifacts for the Museum. It also encouraged me to look for graffiti of a similar sort so that I could perhaps make people laugh just as I did that morning.
After putting more thought into it, I’m not quite sure why I was so surprised to find that there was in fact a lot of graffiti similar to that in the first image. Considering the environment and the people in it – a university campus and a relatively unmarked area just begging to be vandalized by college students who don’t want to be studying – I was almost surprised by the lack of inappropriate writing. Make no mistake, however, as I did have to limit this post to some of the more decorous graffiti hidden among some hilariously explicit drawings and words.
I couldn’t help but wonder: What exactly prompts people to write their phone number in a public place? Is it just a joke or is this some rudimentary form of Tinder? Who’s to say that these are even the phone numbers of the graffiti artists…perhaps the numbers are randomly construed, or worse, the phone numbers belong to someone the artist knows and perhaps hopes to embarrass.
This is why the numbers have been blocked out to the public; because while they certainly were posted in a public place, I wouldn’t want to further extend their reach to an online domain – especially if the number doesn’t actually belong to the artist. While I was incredibly tempted to call at least one of these numbers (for science!), I was just too hesitant to find out who would be on the other end.
Perhaps that’s part of what makes this graffiti so interesting. While it’s funny (at least to me) to see that someone actually took time out of their day to write a phone number next to a suggestive message in a university library Starbucks, there’s also a sense of uncertainty created by it that makes it different from anything else you’d see written on the wall. This difference is one of many, as this graffiti is markedly different from tagging – another form of graffiti popularly seen that involves simply leaving one’s name in a public place.
Certainly upping the ante by adding a phone number, “call for a good time” graffiti is a surprisingly lasting form of everyday writing that can be found in many places. Perhaps you’ll see some during your next visit to the library – just beware the temptation to add a phone number to the wall.