Unity Achieved Through Communal Paint-Watching

Nikhil Sampath, Staff Writer

Dawn is barely breaking as I arrive at an unassuming fence, located at an equally unassuming street. A slight nip floats through the air, and it stings when I breathe. This discomfort is entirely welcome, though—it reminds me that what I am seeing is intensely real, and not some vivid hallucination. In front of me I see a large group of people, staring at the fence, some seated on top of crude beds made of sheets and pillows, while others, dismissing these luxuries in favor of a more primitive experience, situate themselves directly atop the grass. 

I walk up to the first person I see—a teenager wearing a shirt that exclaims (in bold letters, no less) “SCHOOL SUX.” He is the organizer of the event, and the most enthusiastic about the whole thing. 

“Yeah, my name is Keaton Shaffer, but you can call me K-dog,” he says, in a deadpan tone that is stark in comparison to his wiry, ratlike features. “I grew up eating a lot of paint, so it’s really, like, important to me, you know? When I was a kid or whatever my dad would always call me ‘paint boy’ because I ate paint. It really brought us closer. And, like, when you read the news and stuff, everyone seems to hate each other, so I just wanted to organize this event to show that even the smallest things can bring communities together. If paint could help me and my dad, it can totally help our town.”

Presently, K-dog begins to explain what exactly this event is all about. 

“We’re watching paint dry. When I pitched this idea to the town council, they all laughed at me, and called me jive names like ‘rat face’ and ‘Mr. Shaffer, put your shoes back on.’ Eventually, I got them on my side by asking them if they had ever actually seen paint dry. They hadn’t. It just goes from wet to not wet, you know? That’s freaky. There’s definitely some big conspiracy there—probably some government thing. Anyways, they really liked the idea and they got a bunch of people interested in it. They all showed up, and here we are.”

Dubbed the “People’s Order Of Paint’s Observation of Operation” (POO-POO), this veritable menagerie of people visit newly painted fences and host whole-day events with occasional live music and entertainment. It’s truly a beautiful thing, showing how even the smallest, most mundane things can spark community involvement and unity. However, this wonderful message does not hide the fact that the group is largely conspiratorial in nature. At around noon, K-dog puts a tinfoil hat on. It’s dripping in some kind of grease. 

“Yeah, so, 12:00 p.m. is kind of the most dangerous time for members of the POO-POO. It’s because that’s when the government sends out these invisible airplanes to manipulate our minds into thinking that there’s no reason to scrutinize paint and other slow-drying substances to the level that we do. But I’m K-dog, man. Nothing gets by me. I see all, I know all. I’ve talked to the Buddha, dude, like seen him. And trust me, even he’s weirded out by paint. It’s all a big conspiracy, man.”

He hands me a greasy hat of my own, and I politely decline. The sun reaches its peak, shining these oddballs in a warm glow. The nip in the air is gone, and the POO-POO sits silently, doing nothing but watching paint dry.