Taped to the Wall

Cliff Williams
Department of Philosophy
Trinity College
Deerfield, Illinois 60015

It was the beginning of class in the first week of October, 2002. The class was the honors section of Introduction to Philosophy, consisting of fourteen students. We sat in a circle. I sat down in one of the desks and listened to the conversation, which happened to be about a recent weekend activity on campus.

One of the students in the class, Anna Fafinski, had been duct-taped to a wall while standing on a crate. The idea was to pull away the crate and see how long she would hang. I don’t remember how long they said she hung on the wall after the crate was pulled away, but I do remember that someone suggested that I be taped to a wall down at The Alley on North Clark Street in Chicago just north of Belmont Street. I said okay. Four persons shot their hands up. We headed to Chicago two days later on a Friday evening, armed with three rolls of duct tape, one crate, and two or three cameras.

There was no wall next to The Alley wide enough to accommodate me. We walked around the corner onto Belmont Street and found a brick wall next to a nails store (fingernails, not steel nails). Someone placed the crate on the sidewalk, I stepped onto it, spread my arms out, and the taping began. It took an hour and a quarter.

Belmont and Clark streets are hot spots in Chicago. This means that there is a lot of foot and car traffic until the early hours of the morning. People walking by gawked at me. Twice cars stopped and the drivers got out and took my picture. Someone asked, “Is this some kind of protest?” A drifter stopped to help with the taping. A police officer came by and asked whether it was okay for the drifter to do that. We said it was. I asked that the front pocket where I had my money and ID be taped shut. The four students stretched the tape across my shoulders, chest, waist, and legs. They taped my arms. One of the long pieces of tape across my shoulders lay just under my chin.

The time came to pull out the crate. I immediately sank an inch or two. The tape just under my chin began to pull into my throat. Twenty seconds later, I dropped to the sidewalk. We all laughed.

The students decided not to take the tape off me until we all got back to the car. That meant that I had to hop, because my legs were taped together. Fortunately, the car was less than a block away, so I didn’t have to hop too far.

The group made me promise never to do that again with anyone else, so that they could be the only ones who had ever done that. I promised.