And now, the news.
I had wanted to start this blog with a piece I’d written while a columnist for the Illinois State University Daily Vidette. Actually, “A Practical Guide To Graffiti Etiquette” is the piece that got me the job.
Please keep in mind, this was 1994, the early days of the public “Inter-Net” and e-mail was still a novelty, at least for me. There might be things that date the piece, but the sage advice shall weather the ages.
A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO GRAFFITI ETIQUETTE
As popular and efficient as electronic mail and computer bulletin boards are, there still exists a low-tech communications network that most of us encounter at least once a day: Bathroom graffiti.
Unless a reader is looking “for a good time,” this ubiquitous “b-mail” is not much in the way of an informational system. Racial slurs, sexual preference epithets, Greek letters and gang symbols hardly qualify as useful gems of knowledge that need to be shared or kept.
Writing on the walls seems to be a way for the graffitist to keep him or herself occupied until he or she emerges from the rest room, presumably rested. My advice to ISU graffitists: Take a book in with you. Better yet, take a copy of “The Daily Vidette” and stay informed
If you find yourself overwhelmed, if you simply must scribble graffito on the painted metal walls that oh-so-briefly surround you, follow these few simple rules of graffiti etiquette.
1. Use good penmanship.
A graffitist must take pride in his or her work. If a graffitist can’t be bothered to write legibly, why should anyone take the time to decipher what is written? Remember graffitists, your audience remains captive for only so long. If there happen to be other, more clearly written graffiti on the wall, your messy one will be overlooked and your message ignored.
2. Check your spelling.
People reading b-mail already think graffitists are inept morons, don’t compound your image with bad spelling. Pick up a pocket dictionary or try making flash cards for your most frequently misspelled words and have your friends test you on them. If this is still too complicated, bring a corrected version of the message into the stall and copy it from the page to the wall.
3. Write in a straight line.
4. Try to write at eye level.
Once again graffitists, remember your audience. Don’t make the reader contort him or herself for your message.
5. Avoid slurs against and stereotypes of races, religions and sexual preference.
If as a graffitist you like to write in this genre of b-mail, be sure to sign your name so interested readers can track you down and personally show their appreciation for your work.
6. Number and date the entry.
One graffito can promote many responses. These responses often prompt others to take pen and comment on the comments. To prevent the order from becoming jumbled, confused, and difficult for the reader to follow, preface your graffito with “In response to the No.3 comment . . .,” and then write on.
Although arrows are an effective way to direct a comment to a particular graffito, they are messy and cover up what other people have to say.
7. Don’t skimp with language.
Use it to your advantage; say what you mean. The thing that differentiates good graffiti from bad is word choice. You might as well buy a thesaurus when you pick up that dictionary.
8. Don’t use foul language.
Unless there is a valid reason for it, keep perversion and profanity out of your graffiti. It only serves to diminish your work.Try replacing the hackneyed obscenity with a simile, metaphor or a description. Be sure to look up the definitions of “simile” and “metaphor” after you buy your new dictionary.
I know this is a lot of hard work, but for one graffitio to be noticed in a sea of scrawls and slander, it is going to have to be exceptional in every way.
9. If you must draw, stay away from nudes.
Even the most tastefully done picture of a naked body can cause a great deal of controversy. Landscapes are nice. A bowl of fruit is always a crowd pleaser.
10. Try something new.
Rather than scratch the usual libelous remark, jot off a favorite recipe, recommend a good book, pose an ethical dilemma, copy a few verses of poetry on the wall.
Culture is so hard to come by, especially on a college campus. Surely the suggestions made by graffitists can expand each reader’s cultural horizons.
Whether b-mailing, scratching desks or spray painting buildings and overpasses, graffitists would do well to note that these are still acts of vandalism.
According to Sgt. Wood of the Normal P.D, the official charge is listed as “Criminal Defacement of Property.”
If the damage is less than $300, graffitists will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to a $1000 fine and/or up to one year in jail.
Any damage over $300 is automatically considered a felony. Fines and jail time are proportional to the amount of damage
Should any of you get caught in the act, remember the rules of etiquette apply to jail house graffiti, too.
And don’t forget to look up “libelous.”