The Thief of Useless Things

Is it stealing if you take what nobody wants? I don’t know. But it’s what I do. Clamshell packaging. Flyers left on your doorstep. Extra wire hangers.

It’s almost like free housekeeping. Of course they don’t like that I go inside. Yeah, it’s illegal. But I don’t reveal your secrets. (Oh, sure, I know them!) I don’t take anything you’d want. And I never leave a mess.

Still, you probably feel violated. Unless you are desperate and lonesome. Then, maybe you like the attention. It’s a story to tell friends. Or, if you have no friends, to tell strangers.

I dress in dark clothes and wear a hood. Everybody seems to have security cameras nowadays. I smile at the cameras—you can see my mouth but the rest of my face is concealed. I want you to know I’m friendly and I mean no harm. You understand that, don’t you?

Of course, I know what you’re thinking: Why? What the point?

So, today you saw what I built from all those useless things. That installation on the plaza by City Hall. You know, it’s made out of papier-mâché from discarded flyers, stiffened with wire from unwanted wire hangers and reinforced with scrap wood and metal. Painted bright cheerful colors with that extra paint in the basement you weren’t using.

As you probably noticed, the installation is very big. There’s a lot of useless things in the world.

I gave them a use.

The weather is nice so the turnout has been quite good. I didn’t advertise. Everybody is here by happenstance or word-of-mouth. It’s a Sunday and hundreds of people—children, old women, businessmen, homeless people, students—are all out together playing and exploring. There are tunnels to explore, moving parts, some elements that work as rides. Basically, its a free public amusement park.

While they’re doing this, people who never interact are seeing each other, talking with each other and having a great time together. They’re not performing any jobs, or regulated activities or being useful. They’re having fun and just being people.

About time, don’t you think?