A funny thing happened on the way to getting that graffiti over Highway 101 cleaned up. The graffiti got cleaned up.
And in unfathomably short order, as well, though not through the channels you might expect.
I had been scowling at that scar on our fair city for the better part of two weeks, annoyed to see some vandal’s narcissistic, nonsensical tag serving as a welcome sign to San Luis Obispo.
After waiting a bit and contacting the various concerned parties, we ran a story on Wednesday detailing the complexities involved with removing the bright white-and-black word from the side of Union Pacific’s otherwise nondescript bridge.
Never miss a local story.
While the City of SLO clearly had the most vested interest in seeing the tag removed, the primary responsibility for that process ultimately came down to the railroad company, which owns the bridge. But it also required help from Caltrans, who would likely have to access the location via a bucket truck from the highway below.
As you might expect, getting those two entities to coordinate was no easy effort, and it took a while for us even to reach Union Pacific, which has its property marred by so-called “artists” all the time across 31,000 miles of track in more than 23 states.
So you can imagine the company’s lack of urgency upon getting calls about one little bit of blight in a small town in California when other burgs are all but obliterated by it.
Knowing we were dealing with a time frame of weeks rather than days, I was surprised on Thursday morning, like many other commuters, I’m sure, to find the offending graffiti gone.
No, we didn’t just witness the most efficient public-private partnership in city history.
We witnessed something altogether more effective: the initiative of one fed-up person with a roller, a can of gray paint and just the right amount of moxie.
Sometime Wednesday night into Thursday, this guardian angel snuck out onto the railroad bridge and was able to reach far enough over the edge to completely eradicate the vandalism without drawing any bit of attention or falling onto the freeway below.
Technically, this person was just as much of a lawbreaker as the original tagger (assuming they are not one in the same), as both trespassed on and defaced Union Pacific property.
But San Luis Obispo police quickly said they won’t be spending any resources looking for the culprit, and rightly so.
This covert, counter-vandalism operation may not have been the supposed “right” way to rid us of that unsightly graffiti, but it was the best way.
And we all owe a debt of gratitude to our good Samaritan vigilante in a smock.