Millions of euros are spent every year on fixing the effects of vandalism. From graffiti to car accidents, an advertising creative tells us how he spent his teens in a nonsensical spiral of destruction.
The Sun comes up and reveals the scars of yesterday’s brawl. I wake up tangled in a mess of bus curtains which smell like pee, my mouth is as dry as the blood on my palms and my clothes are torn.
In a distant place shattered glasses sparkle under the structure of what used to be a bus stop, the trashcans have been burnt and the traffic signals are gone. It’s not a war zone, it could be your street the morning after we passed by.
It all started with secondary school. I came back from Summer and all of a sudden girls were interesting, their boobs had grown and they liked bad guys, I had to be cool. It took me three months to go from honor student to rebel, I started failing my courses and almost got expelled from school but all my friends and I cared about was playing the rebel.
Why? We did it because we were pissed, when you are a teenager the world doesn’t give a damn about you, you can’t vote, your opinions do not count at all and you feel obliged to follow the rules of a system you didn’t choose.
This was our way of getting back our power.
First it was small things like trespassing abandoned houses, shoplifting and burning things. Every little felony came with it’s adrenaline dose and therefore it started becoming addictive, but as time went by we had to rise the bar in order to keep it interesting, and getting older meant an easier access to resources and freedom.
During the day we were numb, a herd of sheep following an established pattern, but at night it all changed, the world was asleep, the city was our playground.
I still remember those nights as magic, sneaking out of my window and getting in the car one of my friends would always steal from his mom. The asphalt lightened by the yellow aura of the light-posts, silence, vastness, freedom…
So what’s the plan?
Some nights it would be graffiti, either painting on roads or trains, these last were by far the biggest adrenaline pumpers, if you got caught, not only you got beat up but also a trial and a fine between 1k – 10k euros, so it made a very exciting hobby. Breaking in the train yard-surveilling-painting-escaping, no wonder why we called it missions.
Other nights it would just be destruction, getting into a construction area to vandalize every vehicle, filling subway cars or buses with the white smoke of a fire extinguisher, breaking into a school to smash things and steal computers… the possibilities were endless.
Every time we succeeded we felt immortal, escaping the danger and getting back home with pictures as proof of our power was the biggest feeling of accomplishment, but there were also consequences, as things were getting bigger so were problems, and people started falling, you heard of one guy getting hit by a car and almost dying, another one facing a sentence of 20k euros and preventive prison… small scratches led to big bruises, small fines to court hearings, and a cocktail of cops mixed with doctors and drops of your mother’s tears is a hard one to swallow.
In my case it was a car crash, we were five friends driving through the country at night, no lights on the dirt-road at 100km/h and a shitload of alcohol made the car overturn in a curve. All of a sudden everyone was screaming and trying to get out of the wreck the car had become but I found my self very calm amongst the chaos. As I was sitting upside down all I could think was: “I’m a fucking asshole”. Luckily no one died or suffered major injuries despite of the poor car, and it was a big reality slap that awoke me from the nonsense my life was turning into. The sad part is that there always has to be a tragedy to put an end to it, and some are not that lucky as we were.
I realized we couldn’t play against the odds and win forever, and also becoming eighteen meant the next mistake would have much bigger consequences, so we grew away from it. I started drinking less and focused more on studying and traveling.
Nowadays I barely do illegal stuff, but every time I smell the paint of a fresh graffiti or see a traffic sign ripped of it’s roots I remember all the good times. I could tell you I learnt a lesson but that would be bullshit, I got away with it, it was great and it felt amazing. I had lots of fun and nothing happened.
Even though I was a douchebag it also makes me think, if so many teenagers have to choose these ways, then there’s something society needs to change.