I removed graffiti from 114 of the diamond markers on Mailbox on Sunday, Oct 9 (virtually all that I saw with markings on them, but could have missed a few).  I had been thinking of climbing Mailbox once more before the snow, so this gave me a reason.


“Goof Off” works well as a solvent – a suggestion from Scott Preston, who cleaned bathrooms in a previous life.

In a study of international graffiti that I read in a the Seattle Times 35 years ago, graffiti comes in two kinds:  literal and pictorial.  The literal covers virtually every subject in human experience.  The pictorial covers only one.  Only 19.4% of the Mailbox graffiti was “pictorial.”  I have no idea what the background pictorial/literal ratio is around here, but this struck me as low.  Apparently King Co. graffiti makers (or at least those who Climb Mailbox) are more literate.  There were three pictorial diamonds in the Mailbox sample that were different from the dominant theme: one of a pony, one of a bunny and one of three children holding hands (which I assumed was not of the dominant theme because there was no additional evidence to suggest it was and because I am, by nature, an optimist.)

Apparently Mailbox does nothing to facilitate improvement in the arts: all remaining graffiti was of the male persuasion with the exception of one pair of breasts which I assumed was an effort to have minority representation.  The quality of the pictorial representations was consistently poor – no budding artists here.   I was also struck by the absence of any political content in the literal graffiti.  In an age when politicians have sound bites down to an art form (e.g. “death panels”), you would think that the small size of a diamond nailed to a tree would not be an obstacle.  I wonder if there is some intervening variable that clears the brain and makes people more rational  (e.g. mountain air, a walk in the forest or in the case of Mailbox, trying to catch your breath), that inhibits politics.  At the same time it doesn’t inhibit thoughts related to sex.  Obviously, this sample considered sex as more important than politics so the writers were not totally deranged.

Almost all of the graffiti was written with a sharpie-like pen.  The color of choice was black but blue, red and orange were represented.  There were three written by a ball point pen which were harder to clean because they made a groove in the plastic diamond.  Two were written in lipstick, including one that was made by pressing lips to the diamond.  I guess the owner was really glad to find the diamond!  After cleaning off that diamond, I wondered if I should have collected it as evidence instead.  Lip prints work like fingerprints don’t they?  We do have a national data base don’t we?  Next time.

The vast majority of diamonds subjected to graffiti were the low hanging fruit.  To the literalistic readers, that idiom doesn’t mean that DNR has planted apple trees along the route (actually I’d lobby for Italian Plums).  Most marked diamonds were a under 8 ft. above the ground.  I deduce, therefore, that the number of 8-foot-tall hikers on Mailbox is relatively small (this is my police training talking now, deductive reasoning and such).  Also, almost all were on or close to the trail.  This latter observation suggests that our artists/writers are too lazy to go far off of the trail, while, paradoxically,  willing to climb 4,000 feet in 2.5 miles.  But, what is inconsistency if not one of our more enduring characteristics as a species?  Moving about 40% of the diamonds, mostly up and some to the side, is one option if this issue resurfaces.  But, experience in life has taught me that, regardless of the measure, there is always a counter-measure.  When we see Office Depot marketing 8-foot Sharpies or hikers carrying ladders, we will know that the next round on Mailbox has begun.

This post by Jon Wartes

©Melissa Farage

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