Guerilla Service

Sometimes it takes an awful long time to get things done.

That’s not necessarily anybody’s fault, but it is a reality of bureaucracy – a process which does, indeed, have many benefits in it’s favor.

But when you’re outside the the bureaucracy, when it’s not your money to spend or your ducks to get in a row, delay can seem long and unnecessary.

Years ago – not too long before they rebuilt a certain MBTA stop – I used to go through that stop every day.

The paint was peeling in a most unsightly manner. This left the bare wood exposed to the elements, which only compounded the dilemma. It had been getting progressively worse over the years and it was getting to the point where a homeowner’s neighbors might start complaining.

Something really needed to be done.

Of course, something was done – the whole station was replaced a few years later. But as I stared at the peeling paint, I couldn’t help but wonder if something should happen sooner.

I had this dream – a crazy idea, of course, and I never did end up acting on it. But I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen –

If a broken into the station at night an repainted the walls.

I really wanted to do it.

Of course, the whole idea was impractical. I’d need to strip the wood, treat the wood, paint the wood, and probably let it dry between a few coats. That would never happen in one night. Even if I got a few people together.

It was a shame it wouldn’t have worked.

I always wondered what would happen if somebody did that. Technically it would be trespassing and vandalism, but would the state press charges if the work was completed in a professional manner? Would their be complaints about a citizen service vigilante taking on this work which needed to be done?

I didn’t know, and I really wanted to hear the conversation after.

Of course, there is another point, which could be raised in the face of well-meaning service: does a citizen’s volunteer work imply that such tasks are not the responsibility of the government?

A city, for example, ought to devote resources to maintaining it’s public parks, so a dedicated citizen ought to demand government action rather than cleaning the park themselves.

That is a valid concern, but I’m not sure what is better. All I know is that when I see old, dingy paint peeling off of old, dingy, walls –

I just want to get it done.

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