Colorful and terrible and beautiful all at once.

I took this picture a few days ago for several reasons:

dont use the markers

1.  It’s hilarious.

2.  It’s the perfect example of human nature.  Doing exactly what you’re told not to do.

3.  It’s very pretty, in a strange sort of way.  A small, colorful art installation in a sea of beige office supplies.

4.  The helpfully cheerful “OK!” written in marker at the end of the sign asking not to write with the markers made me smile because I can’t even tell if it’s sarcastic or not.  Either way, it’s fantastic.

5.  It’s both beautiful and ugly and messy and probably slightly illegal.  And, yes, it’s a pain in the ass to clean it up but technically Staples is getting a free advertisement right here and it’s an advertisement designed by all of mankind.  Or at least, all of mankind who was given a marker at that particular Staples.  Everyone wins.  And no one wins.  I’m not quite sure.  And that’s life.

99 thoughts on “Colorful and terrible and beautiful all at once.

Read comments below or add one.

  1. Wow, did I get the first comment? I feel so special… I actually came here to comment on the previous post and remind you that there used to be an off-road two-wheeler called a Tote Goat. My dad used to get to ride them when he worked for the Forest Service…

  2. Staples’ instructions are too vague. That is a display, not a wall. And if it were a wall, perhaps Staples only meant OUTSIDE walls. I’m sure they only meant outside walls. And I didn’t deface their building. OK? OK!

  3. I worked at a Craft Store, and always ignored kids making pretty colors on the wall. I liked the simple rebellion and flash of creativity, unless, of course, if they were just drawing penises. Penii. You know.

  4. It’s hard to tell exactly, but to me it looks like the sign hangs on a partition, not a wall, so techinically no one should get in trouble. (high fives all around)

  5. So running joke in our house is that “the pen is (but run together) in your hand” when telling my husband where something is. So, of course, I read this as do not penis on walls. You’re welcome for that brain teaser/mental image/porn idea.

  6. Another “Guiding Statement” for The Church of Bloggessianism – “Everyone wins. And no one wins. And that’s life.”

  7. As a customer this makes me more likely to want to buy markers, highlighters and/ or pens at Staples because I can clearly see that they sell quality writing implements in working order. Also YOU ARE NOT THE BOSS OF ME STAPLES.

  8. I am not sure if I shelving unit can be considered a wall. So, maybe the customers are obeying the rule and sacrificing this sign and shelving until, instead of writing on a wall!

  9. I used to work in a small stationery shop. You couldn’t get away with drawing on anything except the paper we left out for that purpose because the owner assumed every customer was a shoplifter and would breathe down their neck from the moment they came in, but some people did get awfully artistic and sometimes even profound on the sample cardstock. Obscure Shakespeare quotes bordering silly haiku, fine calligraphy nestled between bold graffiti-style text, and the like.

    Of course, some others just drew dicks.

  10. I approve your picture-taking logic! Thank you for sharing this and adding some extra color to my walls. I mean day. I mean life. 🙂

  11. How about the interesting orange-pen-wielding soul who didn’t write on the wall (letter of the law FOLLOWED) but did scribble all over the price sign (spirit of law BROKEN).

  12. They have the same sign at my local Staples, and it too has a markersplosion art installation on and around it. If I stop by sometime soon maybe I’ll snap a picture. 🙂

  13. It’s a wonderful, collaborative, community approach to art. If just one person would have done it, people would have thought it just plain crap. Or a Jackson Pollack poser.

  14. This post just makes me want to go to Staples and/or any other kind of office supply store and buy ALL THE PENS. I don’t even use them, I just LOVE PENS.

  15. There were tiny chalk marks on the floor near the elevators in my building. There was a note that said Do not erase these marks. I very much wanted to erase the marks! Then another time the handicapped button on one of the doors had a sign broken, please do not push. All I wanted to do was push it. I really consider myself a nice person. But I have to fight resisting things like this. 🙂

  16. This reminds me of what happens when I see a sign that says “No Photos”. I immediately have an urge to reach for my camera.

  17. Obviously the marker display needs to be made out of a wipe clean surface like a dry-erase board. Use your head Mr. Staples.

  18. What does it say about me that I saw PENIS and not PENS? Which would make the wall all the more interesting. 🙂

  19. I’ve never understood the need to “clean it up.” Surely we’ve crossed all the boundaries to the point where almost no one is “offended” any more, so I say, write on, penii of the world, write on!

  20. I see that the products near the wall are NOT pens and I like to imagine people going right to this wall on purpose just to write on it…

  21. The office supply chain where I do most of my shopping has a lot of those tiny paper pads installed right on the marker shelves so you don’t even have to move to try out all the markers. The walls there are depressingly dull. So that system obviously works. I like the Staples wall better!

    On another note: Lord Terry wrote in one of the Discworld books that, if there was a switch that could end the existence of the universe and a big sign next to it that says “Don’t touch, the paint on the sign wouldn’t even manage to dry. (Paraphrasing because I don’t remember the exact words)

  22. As the person who has to use graffiti wipes (a foul smelling, rough handy wipe) to clean up all the people testing spray paints, I oppose the picture but appreciate the underlying message of creativity.

    But, damn, that solvent is hard on the hands!

  23. I bought a teapot once that had a label saying, “Do not fill teapot through spout.” It had never occurred to me to fill a teapot through the spout. But from then on, that’s exactly how I did it.

  24. I want this on an inspirational poster: “Everyone wins. And no one wins. I’m not quite sure. And that’s life.”

  25. At least it’s not lipstick that I was thinking about buying. I only buy lipstick packaged now. I’ve seen too many things.

  26. Reminds me of the graffiti in the Elephant House in Edinburgh(where J.K. Rowling used to write) Suffice it to say a lot of Harry Potter themes.

  27. Haha – yup – busted – that light blue marker was mine! 🙂
    Just joshing!
    So love this – we are indeed often tempted to do what we are told not to do – no matter our age

  28. so how are you suppose to know if the pens work then! Yes I admit I am one of the pen testing types.

  29. a person needs to know if the green pen is more of a forest green or chartreuse or sea green or drab olive or pear or shamrock or fern green……

  30. It’s AWESOME, but I feel bad for the employee who has to clean it up. Although from the abundance of markage I suspect they’ve given up trying.

  31. The big splotch of orange right in the middle is a lovely touch, too. Trust me, I went to art school.

  32. If I had a dollar for every photo I’ve taken of bathroom graffiti, I’d be rich. Okay, maybe not rich. But if (pre-child, when I still actually went to bars), I had actually published the “coffee table book full of shots of bathroom graffiti” I (drunk) told all of my (drunk) friends about (in 2002), I might have made like $100, after cost, to self-publish the Shutterfly albums and sell them . Wait, I don’t know if Shutterfly was around then. Or if they were, if they had good coupons like they do now. Shit. I just gave away my awesome idea. If you steal it, put me in the credits.

  33. I can’t walk into a Staples anymore without thinking about “The Gum Thief” by Douglas Coupland. “A few years ago it dawned on me that everybody past a certain age – regardless of how they look on the outside – pretty much constantly dreams of being able to escape from their lives.”

  34. You’re right, it is beautiful, but I’d then be looking for a marker that would stand out above all others so I could correct all the spelling mistakes. Nothing annoys me more than mis-spelt graffiti.

  35. So happy that people stopped looking at their phones long enough to vandalize something….there is still HOPE!!

  36. For Big Brother watchers it’s like the button they always put in the house that could either do something good or bad. It’s never not been pushed.

    Reading the comments made me wonder why genitalia graffiti is almost always PP’s instead of VaJJ’s?

  37. This is another reason I’m sad all the Staples stores I know of are closing. You can’t go in and write silly things all over the walls of a website.

  38. I like when you go to Michael’s craft store and they have paper on the wall so you can test out SPRAY PAINT! That’s doing it right.

  39. I work in retail.
    A customer once told me when I showed him a sign saying the discount was taken off by the cashier at point of sale, and not automatically when scanned,
    Hmmmm. Uh HuH.

  40. I work in retail. Once when I showed a customer a sign that said the discount was taken off by the cashier at point of sale and NOT when scanned, they said to me, “I DON”T COME TO STORES TO READ SIGNS!”

  41. What amazes me the most about this is that nobody drew a penis (unless I missed it, and I looked for it really hard – no pun intended).

  42. Looking closely, I can see something that’s either a mis-spelt racist insult or possibly a shoutout to a West African country. I’m feeling charitable. so let’s just say it’s nice to see Niger getting some love for once.

  43. I just fucking love the “OK!” So much perfection in a sea of banality…

  44. I would do it and the fun thing is my grandaughter would do it with me! Jen

  45. That’s awesome. It’s like 70’s NYC subway-cars are alive and well in your (Midwestern?) neck of the woods…

  46. Funny… we talk about how similar, yet how different it is from the US to Canada.

    In Canada, a test-pad would be set up and a sign would say: “Please test markers here.”

    And there would be about 90% less ‘graffiti.’

  47. Shoot! Can I edit that!!! And take out the “and there would be” statement? I have no idea if there would be less graffiti. 🙂 I got all know-it-all there.

  48. I love the restaurants in Chicago (I got engaged in one of them) that have paper on top of their tablecloths. And then give you crayons, etc. to make your mark. Because that’s just human nature, you’re right:).

  49. that is hilarious! I am definitely one of those people who does exactly what a sign tells you not to do! It says, “don’t touch” you bet your bottom that I’ve touched 99.9% of the things in that establishment. People never cease to crack me up.

  50. It’s simply people reverting back to their true nature, the child inside is awakened, creating the compulsion to write, scribble, draw or whatever right where one is told not to, not out of spite, frustration or anger, but simply because deep down an invitation not to do something is an invitation to test the boundaries; no consequences = no disincentive!

  51. One time at a museum during a class trip there were all of these canvases that said “DO NOT TOUCH” going up and down the walls, and one sign at the end of this long corridor that said “TOUCH” but it was behind glass. My fellow classmates and I thought it was “super deep” with the fact that you would be allowed to touch that canvas but you can’t because it’s caged (we were in college and thought we knew everything). Needless to say, the wind was taken out of our sails when the security guard said “yeah they had to put it behind glass because everyone kept touching it!!”

    Kind of the opposite issue of the pens, but still makes me laugh that people are weird!

  52. One of my favorite photos (that I have taken) is of the guy smoking under the “No smoking” sign in the no-smoking coach on a French train. I thought, “Nobody tells the French what to do! Nobody!”

    But then I had to find somewhere else to sit because I don’t like cigarette smoke,

  53. This human tendency to flout authority is funny in some situations; not so much in others. We used to live down the street from an elementary school which adjoined a large city park. There were signs all around asking people to pick up their dog waste. Every day when I would take my walk, there would be a large pile of dog mess directly under one of these signs…right where kids played every day after school. That’s just stupid and uncaring. No humor in that, at least not for me. We moved, btw, not long after, and that was one of the reasons!

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