“Never underestimate the power of a small group of people to change the world. In fact, it is the only way it ever has.” Margaret Mead
Have you ever become so fed up with a situation that you committed an act of civil disobedience? Well I have. I was helped along with a bit of liquid courage, but that is beside the point.
I lived on the island of Guam in the 1990’s. I think of it lovingly as natural disaster central on a good day, and the 7th level of hell when I recall all the nonsense I lived through in that decade. It’s pretty much the Micronesian Wild West. Nothing makes sense, everyone is related to everyone else and sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands. After considering the odds of living to tell the story, of course. I’m not stupid!
But on to the story. A good buddy of mine lived on the other side of the island. When I wanted to get away, I drove the entire 5 miles from my side of the island to hers. We would sit on her balcony, smoke cigarettes, and drink box wine far into the night. It was just too damned hot to do that during the day when you are only 14 degrees away from the Equator.
Across the street from her apartment was a run down Mom & Pop store. The payphone was on the lot of this shop up near the road. The only people who used it were drugs dealers and users. It was obvious. Car pulls up, man makes phone call, 5 minutes later another car pulls up, money is exchanged, both cars leave. Rinse repeat. All night long. Occasional shots were fired. Yee Haw!
The powers that be were not interested in our concerned citizen calls. “It’s not illegal to use a pay phone.” Well fine, on to plan B. What could we do to fix this problem that did not involved injury or death?
I read a lot and had just finished up a study done in a large city. Don’t remember what they called it, but it was a “nip it in the bud” type of experiment. Instead of using vast resources on stings and take downs that last months or years, they concentrated on the little stuff. The things that crooks do first before they move on to more serious crimes.
The cops started shooing away the guys that hang on street corners. Those annoying twits that jump out in front of your car, spit on your windshield, smear it with a dirty rag, and then demand money for “cleaning” your window. They told hooker and pimps to find another street corner, preferable in another state. Questioned gangs of teens that should have been in school and told them to get back there. And get this…started paying attention to what goes on at payphones in the middle of nowhere. Ha!
What could we do without getting noticed by the bad guys? What could we do in our little corner of the universe to discourage them from using just this particular phone?
My idea was that we put some sort of substance on the ear piece of the phone. My girlfriend suggested super glue. We nixed that idea because we were afraid some guy would rip his ear off. We searched her apartment high and low for that perfect substance that would gross someone out but not injure them. After a lengthy debate, KY Jelly was our goo of choice. We decided it was perfect because it wasn’t something that most guys would recognize immediately like jock goop, or whatever athletes call their stuff. I don’t really want to know.
We waited until the current car left and skittered across the street trying not to giggle to loud. We squirted a good dollop of KY in the ear piece and the mouthpiece. Then ran back up to the balcony to watch the show.
Didn’t take long for another car to come along. A guy got out, went to the phone, and got a good earful of KY. We almost choked from laughing. He rubbed the phone on his shirt. Then he discovered the rest of it in the mouthpiece. He was obviously grossed out now because he wiped his mouth with his shirt, took it off, threw it in the bushes, and left.
We tiptoed across the street and gooped up the phone again. Sure enough, the next guy freaked out like he had a spider down his pants. He put on a good show complete with incoherent cursing and shrieking before he peeled out of the lot never to be seen again. By us anyway.
We did this a couple of times a week for about 3 weeks. The phone traffic decreased dramatically. Not long after that the phone company came and removed the phone altogether. We made a difference in our own backyard!