I Am Not An Artist
July 29, 2002
Sometimes friends ask me why I make geeky things, or spend my free time programming on little projects that I never show to anybody. And the reason is because I Am Not An Artist.
Now, mind you, I have friends that make art. I appreciate what they do. I'm very lucky that I have friends who are terrific writers, or talented musicians, or gifted visual artists. But sometimes I try to dabble in the realm of expression and it doesn't work too well.
So the other day I took a box of freezer pops in to work. I had Big Plans, of course. I wasn't just going to throw them in the freezer at the office and let people slurp their way through another of our uniquely sweltering Manhattan summers. I figured I'd put them in there, tape a pad of Post-It notes to the freezer door, along with a pen, and then post a sign:
There are freezer pops in the freezer, and you can eat them for free if you:
- Tell a Friend About Them
- Leave us all a note with something you know is true.
Now, mind you, with a bribe like that and temperatures over 100 degrees here in the city, I didn't figure anyone could resist. This is the stuff profound creations are made of: Behold the Truth, courtesy of frozen sugar water.
After a few days, notes had started to appear, and I was getting hopeful. The first few messages were, well... underwhelming. But we're just getting started! I couldn't lose hope just becuase the only sentiments my anonymous co-workers had wanted to express were "Freezer pops are great! I love blue!" and "This is better than happy hour at McSorley's!" (Which quote seems to damn my freezer pops with faint praise. The original note was not hyperlinked.)
A week after the pops had been placed, with only a handful having been dispatched to my co-workers despite stultifying temperatures, we started getting some Truth. A Post-It was slapped onto the freezer door.
Someone in this office is having an affair.
Interesting. The anonymous author had finally broken the banality dam, and soon I'd be flooded with compelling, revealing bits of honesty, real personal expression revealing itself in exchange for the promise of a cooling treat.
Another note followed quickly, overlapped on the earlier startling revelation of infidelity:
Someone in this office has distinctive handwriting.
Oooh! A hint of bitchiness, and an all but explicit confirmation of the earlier assertion. Things were finally proceeding swimmingly. I figured there would be an inevitable flurry of insightful, anonymous sticky notes, each painting a truer picture of the people whom I interacted with every day.
But of course, I Am Not An Artist.
My little experiment was not destined to succeed. Either due to the ordinary duties of our cleaning staff, or due to someone's discomfort with the disclosures being stuck to the door of the fridge, all of the notes disappeared one day last week. My plan to collect all of the notes after the pops were gone and scan them into the computer to construct a glorious monument to truth was dashed.
A quick dig through the nearby trashcans yielded none of the notes. There were no hints about who had removed them. I let go of my pretense of creating a great work of modern urban art, and accepted that my aspirations were not meant to be. I'm moving on to projects that tax the skills that I'm stronger at, to endeavors that don't rely on the contributions of anonymous strangers.
The freezer pops, of course, have been going really fast now that nobody has to leave a note.