Lamppost, 2010

Just a lamppost, at the junction at the top of the street. Cassius, a four or five or six year old cat that Jeremy got from the animal rescue place, is missing. Jeremy knocked up an A4 flyer in Word, all caps, 72pt Times New Roman, dropped in a photograph of Cassius, put his cell phone number ten times vertically at the bottom of the layout, printed it, made twenty copies, took a roll of Scotch tape from Julie's desk with a wink and a smile, and on his way home, taped the copies to lampposts, traffic light poles, bus shelters, and finally, the lamppost at the top of the street near his apartment.

Cassius' flyer was taped over a similarly knocked-up-in-Microsoft-Word piece of A4 paper advertising a mountain bike for sale. Three of the phone number tabs have been pulled off and the paper was a bit bumpy from being rained on. Around the pole, above and beneath Cassius' flyer were more and more flyers. Missing cats, found cats, missing dogs, found dogs, TV cabinet for sale, reggae night at a local bar (ladies get in free), dog walker services, cleaning services, clothes mending and alteration services, free-yourself-from-debt services, Lucy! call me! I lost your #!!!

Cassius never was found. Jeremy wanted to think someone had found him and taken him in and given him premium quality cat food and a saucer of full fat milk, given him a new name, and had just not seen Jeremy's flyer. But, whenever he thought about it, Cassius always ended up lying dead in the road after being hit by a car at 3 a.m. Still, lifeless until rush hour, then being squished into an unrecognisable blood and fur mess.

Other flyers covered Cassius'. And others covered those. Again and again, more and more flyers covered more and more missing pets and services for hire. Spring turned to summer, autumn and winter. The flyers faded and crinkled, the ink ran, new bicycles were for sale, and a watch was found. And like a man who drinks a bit too much beer, eats a bit too much pizza, and drives instead of walking to the store, slowly the lamppost got fatter.

Someone selling a pair of tickets for Jeff Beck concert, a yoga teacher, non-smoking room for rent, baby clothes for sale, CDs and DVDs bought and sold, fridge for sale. The posters made it so that between knee height and the head height of an NBA player, the lamppost wasn't visible. It bulged out, a foot in diameter with layers of paper, layers of flutter, holding up its own weight with rolls and rolls-worth of hastliy-applied Scotch tape. It was a fragile structure but it would take a not insignificant effort to dismantle it. But nobody did. The men in fluorescent jackets and trousers who cleaned the streets, picked up trash, fixed the broken street lights didn't touch it. Other less-used lampposts were periodically cleared of the flyers. But not this one. It looked like a project. Someone at the department of whoever-does-these-sort-of-things must've decided to do an experiment.

It outlasted Jeremy, who moved away with his new cat Sonny to take a new job down south. More cats and winters, dogs and summers passed. (Cassius would go missing again, although this time it was "Tibbles" that was missing, and he was nearly a teenager.) The lamppost got thicker and thicker. Swollen like an ankle. To tape a flyer on the lamppost selling your hi-fi or stroller was to more-or-less guarantee a prompt sale. Unlike other lamppost flyers, where people would only pay attention should a word on the flyer and their own immediate needs coincide, passers-by stopped to read the flyers. People read them all. The lamppost was well known in the neighbourhood. People looking for a room mate would concoct beautifully-worded advertisments to show due respect to the lampposts place in the neighbourhood. Local comic artists would post A4 cartoon strips and their Facebook addresses.

Some local people grew annoyed that the bargains they'd often pick up from calling a number on the lamppost would be gone too quickly, such was the shop window the lamppost afforded its sellers. Yet it grew and grew, flaring out further and further, tapering from a couple of feet wide at the top to eight feet or so at its base. It never reached down to the ground, though. People had tried putting flyers for children's toys down at the bottom, but nobody ever took the phone numbers when they were wet and smelly with dog piss. Dogs loved the lamppost. Especially in the summer. The dog of the owner of the grocery store next to the lamppost often spent hours shading under the skirt, watching life go by, and occasionally licking a child's foot.

At Christmas, locals hooked up some lights and turned the lamppost into a Christmas tree. At Easter, the grocery store owner hid tiny chocolate eggs under the flyers. During the World Cup, little paper flags were added. The lamppost was added to the list of quirky things to see in the city's Rough Gulde. Postcards of the lamppost were available in the tourist shops next to the city's more well-established landmarks. It grew and grew. Spanish lessons. Qi Gong. It expanded until the pavement was unusable, the council made the street one way so it could be narrowed to allow for further growth. Visitors came to take photographs stood next to the lamppost. Some climbed onto the spread of flyers. A couple left big dents when the paper gave way. Cats fought on top of the mass, rats scrambled around underneath, dogs pissed around the edges. Drunk men ran across it in the early hours of the morning.

On and on it went, eventually blocking off the street completely. It was now a ten minute walk to the grocery store that was a stone's throw away. School buses had to be rerouted. Houses near the lamppost went up in value, and down in value. Several houses could no longer use their front doors, only entering through the back alley. Frankly, it had became a right pain in the arse.

© 2010 Craig Robinson