Hey kids, TPing is not a crime!

Last Tuesday, very early in the morning, some locals spent

considerable time and effort to toilet paper (TP) more than 60 trees

on the median of Mesa Verde Drive West. Farther down the street after

it turns into Placentia Avenue, words were TP'd on the hillside at

Fairview Park. There are conflicting reports about what was written.

I have heard that what appeared was a combination of "freshman die,"

"'03," "sailors" or "Dad -- please buy more TP."

It's all part of a back-to-school tradition.

Bright and early the next day, the city cleanup crew was on foot

and in cherry-pickers pulling the TP off of the trees.

But wait -- there's more! The next morning, the TP bandits struck

again. This time, they TP'd not only the median of Mesa Verde West,

they also decorated the trees on both sides of the street. The total

amount of TP'd trees could easily have topped 100.

And later that morning, the cleanup crew was out pulling down the

offending paper.

I know that there are a lot of folks who believe that TP bandits

should be sentenced to a year in line at the DMV, but I'm not one of

them. Any teenager will tell you that TPing a house, for example, is

not a random act of violence but a carefully planned and executed

mission perpetrated on someone they like.

Kirsten Miller, 14, is the daughter of good friends Kathy and Dave

Miller. Kirsten may or may not have ever TP'd a house but either way,

she is qualified to discuss the matter. So, I asked her how some kids

might choose the victim's house.

According to Kirsten, the process is not rocket science.

"Sometimes, it's a matter of who has a good house to TP," she said.

Kirsten reported that one group of kids once went to TP a house only

to find that someone else had beaten them to the punch.

My friend and colleague Marisa Luiso told me that when she was a

teenager and her friends had a slumber party, anyone who was invited

but did not appear was subject to a TP party.

It may come as no surprise that parents are often in on the plans.

Kathy Miller, who would never, ever condone such behavior -- no way,

no how -- said that she knows of moms and at least one dad who have

driven the getaway car.

Miller doesn't see TPing as vandalism and neither do I. "It's not

malicious. It's a normal step for teenagers."

Vandalism is the kind of act that is mean and which has the

possibility of permanently altering or destroying the object(s) of

the action. That's not a legal definition, that's my take on it.

I will grant you that maybe TPing 100 trees is over the top and I

don't really like the thought of my tax dollars being spent to remove

TP from trees, but it's also important to take the long view on these

matters. On the list of potential acts of vandalism, whether it's one

tree or 100, TPing does not make the cut. Besides, there are better

ways of dealing with TP'd trees than to send a crew and equipment out

to remove the paper.

City muckety-mucks will disagree and they'll do their best to find

out who is responsible for these acts. But before they go questioning

the usual suspects in high schools, I'd research whether there are

any Navy Seals or Army Rangers living in the area because I believe

these amazing, premeditated acts of hilarity in the wee hours of the

morning could only be executed by people with top-notch military

training.

I don't know who TP'd the trees but the feat was remarkable. It

ranks right up there with the Cal Tech football game stunts of years

ago when they substituted cards for the card stunts or sent a rocket

blasting out of midfield at halftime.

I don't think we should pin medals on the members of the TP party.

But honestly, I am in awe of how much they accomplished two mornings

in a row without being detected.

Finally, I must admit to one lingering thought. Why, I wonder, if

this act has been performed in the past on the same trees at the same

time of year, was there no one posted near the trees that morning?

That person not only would have caught the bandits, the cost of his

or her wages for a day would have been far less than that of the

cleanup crew.

I may be out there next year waiting for them. But don't expect me

to make a citizen's arrest -- I'm bringing my camcorder.

* STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and freelance writer.

Readers may leave a message for him on the Daily Pilot hotline at

(949) 642-6086.

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