I can't remember when my dad first mentioned having written pi
to approximately 10 decimal places on the far end of the platform wall at a subway station, but I do remember him swearing up and down that he'd be able to find it if he went back.
"I know exactly where it is," he said. "It's in a very specific spot. And it's on cement, so it wouldn't be able to be washed off." I asked him why he bothered to write pi on a subway station wall.
"I was bored."
My parents started talking about going to our hometown for a long weekend in 2003, and all the things we could do there. Visit old friends. Eat local food. See where dad had defaced a subway station as a teenager.
That last bit was only of interest to him and I. My mother and my sister went shopping instead. We drove to the subway station and he pointed out various points of interest along the way, including the warehouse that sat where his old high school had once stood.
There was no one at the collector booth, so we walked right in. He pointed down to the platform and said "It's right the— I don't remember that sign."
Indeed, there was a bright yellow warning sign right at the end of the platform, warning patrons not to go any farther. We headed down to examine the wall.
No pi. Not even the faint trace of where pi once was. It was there, but under bright yellow plastic. He stood there pondering the fact that of all the places to put the sign, they'd chosen right over his declaration. Or vandalism. Your mileage may vary.
I was just glad we hadn't had to pay to get in.
I started heading back towards the exit when I heard him say something I didn't quite catch. I turned around to find him removing a mechanical pencil from his pocket and proceeding to write something on the wall next to the warning sign.
He stepped back after a second, and there it was: "π = 3.1415926535."
I was stunned. "You just defaced a subway station," I said, bewildered. "Again."
"Thanks for covering for me."
I hadn't so much "covered for" him as I'd just stood there, unable to believe what was happening. I didn't say anything. My dad had just defaced a subway station — in the name of math — in plain sight of his 18-year-old daughter who would never break such a law in her life and could only appreciate it had it been done in such a nerdy context.
A bored teenager had written pi on the wall, once. He wasn't about to let it go lightly. It's one thing for a teenager to vandalize public property with foul language or threats. No one covers up pi.
It was the coolest thing I'd ever seen.
July 2007: It's gone. Weep.