Monday, 11 May 2009

Urban vandals in high heels and track suits

Ugly scrawled graffiti tags are the work of disaffected young hooligans, right? Wrong. Last week, my husband, on a light scamper through the suburbs, came across a well-dressed woman who was supervising a worker on Jan Smuts avenue, close to the Johannesburg Zoo. The worker had a large can of fluorescent spray paint, and was busy spraying big pink marker arrows on the road, close to the yellow line alongside the kerb.

'A little urban graffitti, I see,' quipped my husband.

'It's not!' bristled the woman, directing a laser glare at my husband. 'It's for the runners! There's a training run coming through here soon!'

Oh, so that makes it okay, does it? It's perfectly acceptable for a private individual to buy a can of spray paint and deface a public road?

What's the difference between a lout, let's call him Mr Whateva, who rolls around Johannesburg late at night, in a chemical haze, defacing walls with his spray can, and Mrs Tracksuit, Chairlady of the Road-Marking Committee of the Training Run, directing her minion with his spray can?

You might say, 'Well, there's no difference'.

But there is one important distinguishing characteristic that sets Mrs Tracksuit aside from Mr Whateva. And here it is: you will never, never, hear Mr W calling in to a radio station to complain about litter, taxi-drivers, pot-holes or uncollected rubbish in the city of Johannesburg.

He might be a thick-as-a-brick antisocial misfit, who is still sponging off his parents and driving his relatives wild. He's pond scum. But at least he's consistent about it.

The Mrs Tracksuits of this city, on the other hand, have values that are slightly more nuanced. They loathe taxi drivers who break every rule of the road, but think nothing of wittering on their cellphones while they careen through the suburbs in their Pajeros. They condemn child neglect 'in the townships' but allow their own small children to stand between the front seats of the Paj, unencumbered by any sort of seatbelt, while Mum ramps the speed bumps. They complain about affirmative action 'fat cats' (ie, rich black people) not caring about the poor and downtrodden, and yet live their lives like latter-day Marie Antoinettes.

Sies tog.

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Mrs Tracksuits said...

Pajero? erk.. how common!
ML Benz if you don't mind dear...I mean..really!

settledowndude said...

The USA statistic is that anyone who walks past graffiti is 70% (yes 70%) more likely to litter than if the graffi-toti snigger was not there. So even if graffiti is dressed up as urban art (or kak, you choose) it still makes for a littered enviroment. Shoot her.