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The Lure Of Wet Cement

12 Sep 2007

The Lure Of Wet Cement

Why is wet cement so irresistible?

The pavement outside my old house was reinstated after a power pole was replaced. The wet cement attracted people like flies to rotten meat. It became a kind of prostrate hoarding for the serious messages of local wordsmiths.

The lure of wet cement

What is that cosmic force that draws people to write in wet cement?

Deep and profound affirmations appeared such as,

‘I love Rich’.

‘Rich what?’ I thought. Rich men, perhaps? Rich foods? Rich wine? Rich laughter? Rich chocolate? Maybe the author was disturbed in the middle of their creative endeavour and never got to finish off the sentence. Damn, now I’ll never know…

Some wrote swear words.

Swear words in wet concrete! How original! Then a curious thing happened. Council workers arrived and ripped all the concrete up. I don’t know why, but a few days later, more wet cement was laid. A couple more names appeared and this time – a hand print.

Say what? No I don’t live on Hollywood Boulevard!

It made me think

Anyway, the concreting escapades going on outside my house got me thinking about why people feel such a compulsion to leave their mark. I decided that there are several reasons. However, as I haven’t managed to catch anyone in the act and interview them,  and no one has ever admitted to scrawling in the cement, I’ll just have to guess. So here are my guesses:

It’s driven by our urge to leave something tangible in the world, a legacy

Many people do this by having children and grandchildren to carry on the family name. Others make a positive difference in the world in some other way. Many even do both. There are lots of positive ways of leaving an impression on the world and I’m sure that most people will be remembered for something a lot more inspiring than, “Oh you remember Sally, she’s the one who wrote ‘Sally loves Jim’ in the concrete in Horotutu Road.” (Duh!)

It’s a permanent way of recording a temporary emotion

Sometimes emotions are fleeting, such as love for someone, as in, ‘Sally loves Jim.’

There’s an element of secrecy and covertness

Maybe excitement or the thrill of possibly getting caught is what drives cement scribes. It’s not like I saw anyone in the act of writing. And I didn’t see queues of people waiting in line to inscribe their immortal words. But, I mean if you’re going to wait until there’s no one else around, then monitor the street to make sure you’re not caught, find something to write with and then write … what? Your name? A swear word? Come on! Surely you could be at least a little creative and maybe write a sonnet, or better still a limerick.

But no, people write moronic things like, “I love Rich!” Who cares!?? Some imagination PLEEEASE.

I have found more anonymous concrete writing locally too.

I used to live in one of the streets across from beautiful Cornwall Park in Auckland, New Zealand, where I walked my dog. As I turned from the main road round the corner and in to the top of my road, it’s right there. In the concrete it says BOO! It’s seems so innocuous but always surprises me as well. That’s all it says – BOO! I always smile when I see it. It pulls me out of whatever day dream I’m in.

That’s why BOO! is intriguing. It’s almost as if the person who wrote it intended to make someone smile. It somehow seems appropriate, unselfish and a little thought provoking.

And then I got to thinking about how I’ll be remembered

Seeing as I haven’t immortalised my name in concrete, I wondered if I would be remembered at all! Have you ever wondered how you’ll be remembered, or what you’ll be remembered for? Of course, you don’t have total control over everyone’s perception. Each might recall some different thing about you that they’ve experienced, and about which they can reminisce. But I think you get general themes that your family, friends and colleagues will agree are the essence of you. I also believe that when you can do more of the activities that are the essence of you, the more memorable you are.

Anyway, this is just food for thought… What do you do on a day-to-day basis that makes you memorable? Whatever it is — please do more of it — provided it’s legal of course! Maybe you could find some wet cement and inscribe it? It would certainly be more interesting and inspiring than what’s currently there to read.