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When I was very young, my family lived in the suburbs of South Bend, Indiana. My earliest ventures outdoors revealed a landscape of neatly trimmed lawns, seemingly towering houses, and cracked sidewalks in which dandelions and other weeds took root and flourished.

And there were fire hydrants. Now, the practice back then--and I presume this is still the practice--is to have the people of the neighborhood voluntarily maintain the fire hydrants' general appearance. I have a later memory of the neighbor lady slapping a coat of red paint on one. But the title of this node refers to a far more sinister practice.

Back when I was still too helpless to leave the confines of our yard by myself, my mother chose a beautiful sunny day to walk with me around the block. But what began as an innocent mother-son excursion quickly became a nightmare.

The people of the neighborhood, in a fit of some bizarre late-70's early-80's euphoria had painted each and every fire hydrant on the block to look like a little person. Imagine a freakish combination of clown, circus midget, Raggedy Ann doll and alien robot: that's just how disturbing those things looked. Before long my mother was forced to carry me, bawling, past each of the little monstrosities; and each time I spied one over her shoulder a new batch of tears poured out.

I realize the painters thought they had done something cute. But if you're one of those individuals charged with the same job, please, please don't traumatize any more children. A nice coat of yellow works well enough.