Picnic table pyramid builders delight/enrage (take your pick)

A Boing Boing reader says:

Thought you might enjoy this... A group of teens has begun stacking picnic tables in Spokane, WA (where I live). They've hit a couple times at local parks and the authorities are up in arms. Spectacular... amazing... daring... and I'm glad my son isn't involved! Or is he?!!

Link to an article in our local paper...

From the article:

An Urban Forestry crewman discovered a note addressed to park employees at the top of the stack of 36 tables. The note was signed “SKFS.”

It continues...

“We heard that our riverfront table pyramids cost $500 each to remove,” the note reads, “yet they only took 4 teens 25 min to assemble sans equipment! Please stop wasting taxpayer dollars.”

The group calls themselves The Spokane Serial Stackers and has a Facebook page.


  1. It costs $500 to remove because the city workers have to follow safety procedures.  This amounts to an unstable unsecured structure.  They can’t just climb up there and start tossing the tables down.  Most likely they bring in a crane and everything.

  2. Those responsible are yelling at the Forestry workers for wasting taxpayer money? I don’t even…

  3. Oh, man, that brings me back. I used to work at a summer camp. The go-to camp prank was stacking the picnic tables into a pyramid. We didn’t have quite so many, so it didn’t get that tall, but yeah… I’ve seen that.

    No, I never did that. I had many better camp pranks to play.

          1. ‘fraid not. Never even seen a preview for the damned thing. I do however confess to having friends with terrible film-watching tastes.

          2. Watch out, Antinous, you’ve seen a movie that he hasn’t, which apparently means he is superior to you.

          3. Hey, I’ve seen all the Twilight films in the theater. American Pie doesn’t get close to that.

          4. In that we saw the same trailer?  That was one of the two big quotes from the movie that was plastered on everything by the marketing folks.  The other quote was a simile relating to the title of the movie.

          5. ..not to mention his penchant for joking about things being stuck in orifices.
            I love BB because the mod has dirtier jokes than all of us.

            PS: Yeah don’t you hate when teenagers pull silly, costly pranks!? I’m sure we were all A students who went straight home after school and spent the weekend studying, amirite?

            This is funny. My (and your) taxpayers dollars are wasted on way worse crap than dismantling a table sculpture.

            In any case I wish these kids were off doing meth and tagging shit like all the other kids. That would be way better!

          6. “In any case I wish these kids were off doing meth and tagging shit like all the other kids. That would be way better!”
            When they get bored — or flustered at being reprimanded — your wish may be granted. Maybe they do that on the side already.
            If their parents are upstanding citizens, I imagine that whatever they do they’ll still grow up to be successful, despite such silly pranks. If their parents happen to be poor, the police will punish them hard. That’s what matters in the end.

          7. Your assumption that it’s normal and healthy for kids to vandalize other people’s things says a hella lot. I was never given a curfew, and was frequently out until 1 AM on Friday nights – but that really doesn’t and shouldn’t mean messing around with other people’s crap for entertainment. It’s not my stuff, I don’t mess with it. I learned this as a kid (don’t take other kids toys – ASK if they’ll SHARE them) and didn’t magically forget because of hormones. Sheish.

      1. When you work at a camp, you live there. You know who the campers are, who your fellow staffers are, and you know how to prank them very specifically. 

        A bunch of picnic tables stacked up? That’s just labor.

        It’s all about knowing the audience.

  4. I thought it was a silly prank until I got to the “wasted tax dollars” part. Um… guys… see, the workers don’t have the air blowing through all the holes in their heads like you do… you might want to take your own advice first.

    I’m sure much hilarity will ensue when the city gets tired of unstacking tables, and just removes them. (That’s what I would do.)

    1. “the workers don’t have the air blowing through all the holes in their heads like you do”

      OK, I completely honestly and unironically don’t get this expression. Are you calling the stackers airheads in a particularly creative and roundabout way, or is there more to it?

      1. I believe what CH is implying is the fact that there is no extra cost associated with the “cleanup”.  I assume the city/state/federal workers are paid salary, therefore as long as this falls into their normal work hours then there is no extra cost associate with their work.  If the tables were damaged that’s an entirely different issue then.

        1.  The time it takes city workers to unstack the tables is time wasted that they could have been doing other, more productive things, thus time wasted.  Number of workers needed X amount of time needed X hourly wages + cost of use of any equipment (cranes, etc) = money wasted.

          Considering, for example, that my local parks employ one person per three or four parks for daily maintenance needs, if four staff are needed to clean up this prank (as it took four teens to do the prank), then that’s 12 parks that didn’t get trash picked up or collected, open areas mowed, grafitti cleaned, etc, that day.

          1. If we assume they are being paid by the hour and have to work extra hours to compensate then there is a cost incurred for the workers.  If they are salary then there is no additional cost involved…perhaps additional work for the employees, but not extra cost.  Equipment rentals and anything else they would need are probably the bulk of the $500.

    2. If the park goers are lucky, the city won’t get rid of the tables, but instead will just bolt them down, or set them into the concrete

    3. I’ve been in parks where the picnic tables were chained and anchored to trees and/or bolts in concrete. I guess I know why now.

      1.  Well, probably more because people will toss one in the back of their pickup for their own backyard.

  5. The authorities should just leave the stack and replace the missing tables.
    We’ll see who gives in first!

  6. A wise man — I think it was Wil Wheaton — suggested one and only one commandment:    “Don’t be a dick.” 

  7. I think this is a great use of taxpayers money. 

    Temporary Urban Art: a deal at $500 per installation.

  8. The response is overblown, even if the stacked tables are an inconvenience.

    The act makes it obvious that Spokane has got four energetic, creative, non-conformist kids who are bored. What are possible reasonable responses?

    Well the first option is to do what is already being done – make a big fuss, hide behind official procedure, and use authority and inflexibility to find the kids via the police in order to punish them. This option has two outcomes – either the city never find the kids and eventually they get bored and go do something else, or the city does find them and then punishes them. Neither is a very productive or useful outcome for anyone involved.

    The second option is for someone in the city government to have the bravery and the sound judgement to realize these kids are 1) honestly not a real problem and 2) clearly possess a degree of potential that would benefit from being directed and fostered.

    Assuming someone was willing to take responsibility for the decision, the city could very easily come out and say to these kids, “Tell you what – if you stop stacking our picnic tables, we’ll let bygones be bygones and you won’t be punished in any way. Instead, we’d like you to join this new community outreach program we’ve decided to start. We’d like to put your talents to better uses. You volunteer to help beautify the city, and we’ll give you resources to do so. You can paint murals, design public sculptures, hold community events, whatever, just run it past the appointed city representative for confirmation and we’ll see what we can do.”

    If the city is going to be spending this money, would you rather they spend it dismantling picnic table pyramids and trying to get these kids punished, or would you rather they spend it on paint and brushes for murals, on tools and materials for sculptures, or on organizing a community potluck or holding a public waterballoon fight or on funding any number of activities that would benefit the community, as well as these four kids?

    You’d be surprised just how far you can stretch five hundred dollars, and you’d be surprised just how much impact a bit of good will and good faith can have on kids like these.

    1. I think the reasonable solution is for these kids to photograph what they did, post it to their Facebook or tweet or make an art project out of the photos, and then unstack the tables themselves. If these kids need hobbies, there’s a lot of things they can creatively occupy their time with that doesn’t require the city to provide them art supplies and walls to paint. I admittedly did some really stupid things in high school, but I didn’t chastise those who had to deal with the outcome.

      Or they can continue to act like the immature, smart-ass dicks they are, eventually get arrested, and explain it to the judge. I hope they get the Community Service punishment they richly deserve.

      But coddling them like they deserve some special treatment for being immature, smart-ass dicks is really missing the point.

      1. What is the point, then? That if you do something harmless, but inconvenient, that you deserve to be punished? That if you don’t like the system, tough, get used to it or GTFO?

        The world is what is it. And we can either change it for the better, or change it for the worse. There are no other options.

        So sure, you can crack down on these kids, threaten them with fines and jail, scare them straight. And what’s the result? Anything positive? Anything productive? Anything that makes the world a nicer place to live in? Maybe you feel vindicated for putting the stupid snerts in their place. Maybe you feel powerful and wise because you showed them who’s boss and that if they mess with the status quo, they get the stick. But nothing positive comes about. Nothing changes for the better. At best, nothing changes at all. At worst, these kids become bitter and jaded individuals, with no desire to ever try to change the world, because they’ll just get punished again.

        The other option is to reach out to these kids and get them to redirect their efforts into positive activities. Yeah, stacking these picnic tables is dumb and immature and a nuisance for the public and the people who have to unstack them. But there are ways to get these kids to stop stacking the tables that are actually positive and productive instead of negative and destructive.

        1.  Oh, yes, things like this never come tumbling apart when some other smart-ass tries to climb it and gets careless.  Or, you know, a child who thinks it would be cool to climb that thing like the big kids did.  And no one would EVER sue the city if they left them, no, that would be nonsense.

          Punishment is intended to suggest to the punishees that maybe they should think things through a little better next time.  Have your fun but don’t put other people at risk.

      2. Everybody overlooks another obvious explanation.  The teens NEED some outraged adults to play a vital if hackneyed role in their drama.  The genre-savvy adults are just playing along. 

        Kudos to the guy calling them “immature, smart-ass dicks.”  You’ve got the tone almost right – but ease up on the naughty words.  “Miscreants and vandals” would be better.

        1. The teens NEED some outraged adults to play a vital if hackneyed role in their drama.

          Possibly an evolved trait to keep adolescents from mating with their parents.

      3. I agree. Unless this was a prank performed by a high-school football team. Then it was just hi-jinks that should not be punished. When deciding punishments for this sort of thing it is very important to base the punishment on _who_ did the deed, and perhaps their parent’s status in society.

    2. I am endlessly bothered by people’s outrage at the behaviour of bored teens. It begs the question; Does everyone who complains about vandalism and whatsuch possess a clean slate, or are they just ignoring their own need to test the given boundaries?
      The most common response to vandalism or other acts of creative disinterest (or destructive disinterest, whatever) is a call for punishment or ‘wisening up’. Really, though, both options provide no solution. Community services, whether they be established through existing institutions or encouraged in their spontaneous form (waterballoon fights were a good example) are the only resource with potential to curb vandalism on any level.

      1. “Does everyone who complains about vandalism and whatsuch possess a clean slate”

        Probably, yes. Most teens, despite what some people who thought their childhood was a universal condition, aren’t vandals.

        There’s two problems with assuming all teens are vandals and that it’s wrong to treat teen vandalism as the rather jerkish behaviour it is:
        1) It contributes to the anti-teen atmosphere that assumes that everyone under the age of about 21 is a criminal (particularly prevalent in England, but it happens everywhere)
        2) It sends a strong message to teens that AREN’T vandals that everyone is going to treat them like one anyways. And from there it’s a short hop to “Well if they’re going to treat me like I’m a dick, I might as well act like one.”

        Yes, vandalism is often a result of bored teen-agers with poor judgement and creativity to entertain themselves. You can’t just pat them on the head and say “You’re creative!” You need to address that you’ve got a handful of kids with poor judgement that could use some work in that area before someone ends up doing something really stupid.

        Community services are a good prevention, but in the face of a lack of community services, the correct response isn’t to shrug and say “Oh well, too bad we didn’t have a waterbaloon fight for them instead”.

        1. You make a good point about assuming all teenagers push their boundaries in the realm of vandalism. Some do, some don’t, some feel absolutely no need to establish their own boundaries at all. A worthy truth to keep in mind when handling the youths.

          “Community services are a good prevention, but in the face of a lack of community services, the correct response isn’t to shrug and say “Oh well, too bad we didn’t have a waterbaloon fight for them instead”.”

          Not that I would say the example given is any kind of proper response at all, but what would be a proper response? Aside from establishing some community services, of course. Certainly not to simply bemoan their poor judgement and criticize their character for it?

      1. How brave of you to so publicly admit your ignorance and lack of meaningful contribution to the discussion at hand.

    3. You really think that these kids have the talent and drive to “paint murals, design public sculptures, hold community events” or whatever, based on their demonstrated ability to put one thing on top of another thing?

    4. Tell you what – if you stop stacking our picnic tables, we’ll let bygones be bygones and you won’t be punished in any way. Instead, we’d like you to join this new community outreach program we’ve decided to start. We’d like to put your talents to better uses. You volunteer to help beautify the city, and we’ll give you resources to do so.

      That is definitely what Rastamouse would do.

  9. I noticed a beautiful stack of picnic tables in my local park in Brooklyn, NY and when I asked a Parks employee who did it, they didn’t know or understand why anybody would do this. 

  10. There is NO WAY a group of 4 teens could build this in 25 minutes — they MUST have had help from ancient astronauts.

    1. Oh sure. The conversation is just getting good and unexpectedly someone has to bring up ancient astronauts. Or was that the Spanish Inquisition.

  11. I think the obvious solution is to keep the existing stack and get more picnic tables and challenge them to keep going higher.  Eventually you’ll end up with enough tables they get bored or a pile of dead people you don’t need to chase any more.

  12. Anyone wanna bet that if one of the teens injures him or herself while creating one of these (admittedly very nifty) stacktures they sue the city?  

    1. heh, i did this in highschool and not 5 minutes after completing our structure, i sat on an unsupported side and fell probably 15 feet with the table falling on top of me. i am extremely lucky that i didn’t get hurt or killed from it.

      1. Wow, that story is just too precious!

         But A.I.G. doesn’t owe loyalty to the government,” someone close to Greenberg told the Times. “It owes loyalty to its shareholders.”

         Most succinct explanation ever of why corporate personhood is a bad idea.

  13. My company pays consultants thousands to get us to do this kind of thing as a team building exercise. Or, as X-Files put it: 

    Agent Kinsley: Last year, I had something of a personal revelation. We were doing an exercise called Team Builders where we were given two minutes to build a tower out of ordinary office furniture. 

    Stonecypher: When I stood on Mike’s shoulders and I put that electric pencil sharpener on top of the pile… we both knew we could never have done it alone. 

    Mulder: [whispering to Scully] Kill me now.

  14. If you’re going to spend money anyway, use the $500 to bolt that fucker together and paint it. Build a concession stand next to it and put it on your tourist brochures.

  15. Tickles the hell out of me, and I’m often quite stern about the hijinks of the idle young.  I wouldn’t consider it vandalism, since nothing is actually stolen, broken, or defaced.  Art?  Sure, what the hell, why not.  I wouldn’t carve it out of the park and put it into a museum like people do with Banksy stencils (I wouldn’t do it to his stuff, either, honestly), but even if I showed up at the park with a full pick-a-nick basket and a hungry family, I’d laff my ass off if I found all the tables stacked up thus.  And sure, the Parks employees are underfunded and overworked and have to deal with it safely, but when I read this unfortunately-worded sentence:

    The Urban Forestry crew put plans to prune some potentially dangerous branches at Audubon Park on the backburner to carefully deconstruct the latest table pyramid.

    I have to really rev up the sympathy generator when one’s pruning schedule gets disrupted.  By “careful deconstruction” of a stack of tables.  Yeah, they’re heavy and awkward.  Yeah, it’s a pain in the ass.  Honestly, I’d much rather spend an hour or two taking down and redistributing the tables (and maybe chaining them down if I didn’t want to have to do it again) than spend any time at all cleaning up graffiti and fixing busted fixtures in the park restrooms.

  16. Delight!
    Watching “occ. health and safety” dick about just adds flavour.
    Have we really become this precious?

  17. Damn teenagers with their silly antics…that’s IT! Back to the kiddie table with all of you!! And stay off my lawn

  18. you wouldn’t be able to do this with picnic tables in British Columbia parks, since they’re weigh a ton. All the solid wood.

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