(Voiceover: Grandpa Abe Simpson) I suppose my negative feelings about vandalism stem from the day in the late ’50s when I got my hide tanned but good for inadvertently breaking a car window.
I was in the third grade at Fremont Elementary in San Luis at the time, and was walking home with my friend Ricky Mugler, using the railroad overpass that spans Monterey Street as a shortcut.
For some inexplicable reason, we decided to drop granite rocks through the slats of the trestle onto the street below, which, according to the immutable law of little boys doing mindless things, ended up breaking a passing car’s front windshield.
And therein lay the roots of my tanned hide and lengthy scolding on vandalism and destroying other people’s property.
I bring this up with regard to the 50-plus cars that were vandalized in a Los Osos neighborhood last weekend. To put a fine point on it: I don’t get it.
Most psychologists and sociologists explain vandalism as something that youngsters do because they’re either bored, get an adrenaline rush out of it or want to be part of the pack.
OK, I guess I can see that. But what boggles is the sustained effort it must have taken to have bashed, slashed and keyed that many cars. That takes a certain amount of unrelenting exertion. If adrenaline was their goal, their eyeballs must have been fairly squirting the stuff.
One of our readers living in the neighborhood in question said she thought it was the work of a “flash mob,” the relatively recent phenomenon where people text, tweet or cell phone a group of people to be at a certain place and time to perform certain acts.
Some of these exercises are hilarious. Take for example, some 200 people all showing up in some public place at 3:24 p.m. and collectively acting out mimes-locked-in-a-box, which utterly baffles bystanders.
No harm, no foul. Pretty good fun, actually.
Yet what may be techno-generated public theater on the one hand can turn into mob mentality on the other.
Consider the flash mobs that popped up in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee this summer, robbing and beating those who were unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But America’s increasingly desperate inner cities aren’t Los Osos, so what’s going on? My guess is tweakers, meth heads who think nothing of being up at 3 a.m. and treating others and their property with the same respect they have for their own rotten-mouthed, scab-ridden selves.
On the other hand, if these punks are bored little jerks who never learned the basic fundamentals of how to treat others and their property, then perhaps Singapore’s vandalism punishment should come into play: three years in prison or a caning or both.
If that seems a little harsh, how about this: There are more than 1,000 nonprofits in this county that can use help at any given time. How about flash-mobbing for any one of these causes? It wouldn’t be boring and, who knows, it may even generate a little adrenaline for a job well done. It’s just a thought. (End Grandpa Abe Simpson voiceover.)
Addenda: A recent column dealt with Cambria resident Bill Seavey seeking contributions to help Dan De Vaul pay for county permits to build up-to-code buildings at his Sunny Acres ranch. By Seavey’s own assessment, the results have been “mixed at best.”
Seavey has been returning checks from the Heritage Oaks account to those he can identify; he needs help returning checks to others, either through a deposit slip or transit number. If you’re one of the latter, contact Seavey at email@example.com or at 924-1719.