As I stepped out our front door, I noticed a pair of youngsters intently watching a third. I walked over and in my best stage voice, very loud but not actually shouting, I demanded,”Just why do you think it’s okay to write on my wall? Do you write on your mother’s walls at home?”. Needless to say, the young girl turned to me, she couldn’t have been more surprised if the wall had spoken to her itself.
She stammered, “I wouldn’t have written on it if I had known it was your wall.” I wanted to ask her whose wall was it okay to write on? Did she think the wall had grown out of the sidewalk? Having dealt with pre-teens during my short stint as a school bus driver, I knew that sort of dialogue was fruitless, so instead, I asked her name and got her word that she would not write on my wall anymore. Furthermore, she would ask her friends to respect my property too. I was no longer the faceless owner of the house, but a real person. The next night I came out and introduced myself and asked them to please respect my property.
We live, as they say, close to transportation, and a group of kids wait for their bus home on the corner in front of our house. This year,the group has grown rather large and our wall has started sprouting graffiti. Not clever graffiti, not offensive graffiti, not even gang sign. Just hearts, doodles and inane messages written as bored junior high schoolers waited for the bus.
I had talked to my friends and neighbors, my mentors in all things Merida, and not gotten a good answer on how to solve the problem. Since we don’t have fixed bus stops like they do in many other countries, I couldn’t complain to the bus company and have the stop moved. The police may or may not do anything, and the most they would do is talk to the children.
My little serendipitous ambush resulted in no graffiti for quite awhile. However, last Friday, someone wrote on the wall in either crayon or lip stick. I have no idea what they were trying to inscribe, but it was in big blotchy letters. As I cleaned it off, I noticed pencil markings and some pen. I heaved a sigh, like the plague, the markings were spreading. I decided that enough was enough and I needed to confront the problem.
Two days ago,on Monday, I got out a plastic chair and my kindle set them on the sidewalk to wait for the little darlings to arrive. I greeted them with a cheery hello and the announcement that I was tired of repainting my wall. Then I moved my chair so I was sitting in middle of the largest knot of them. I watched one drink a soda and set the can against the wall. I watched her, waiting just a little bit to see what she would do.Finally, I called out “Señorita, su lata.” I then continued with the information that she couldn’t leave her can there, “This is a sidewalk not a trashcan”. She looked embarrassed and picked it up. I thanked her.
A bus came, but none of the dozen got on the bus. This is where I put my carefully thought out plan into action.
I asked one of the older looking girls “So what school do you go to?” “Her answer was unintelligible but I already had a pretty good idea, so I questioned further” The one on Calle 64?” .She nodded yes, then I asked why didn’t they take the bus that just passed. She shrugged.
I then turned my attention to a very young couple who were enthralled in each other. I watched them for awhile, making them uncomfortable. As they separated, I suggested that if they weren’t going to take the next bus, maybe they wanted to wait elsewhere for the bus. They walked away.
As the other kids got on the next bus, I said a cheery “Hasta mañana”