The Protractor Whimsy of Pittsburgh

Here is an urban-social mystery that has intrigue and whimsy attached to it. We all need a dose of whimsy these days.

Protractors mysteriously placed around city neighborhoods
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Unless you’re an architect or an engineer, it’s probably been years since you last used a protractor in geometry class. But, now the semi-circular tool is showing up in some odd places around town, from mailboxes to utility equipment. Protractors have been pasted in public places from the North Side to the East End by way of Garfield where John Perry catches his bus by the mailbox. “It might be a marker for certain cans they’re supposed to pick up and empty or the ones they’re going to remove and renew. I don’t know,” he guessed.

That just doesn’t add up. It appears a private protractor placer throwing us a curve within a three-mile radius. Each one is numbered.

Polish Hill proves to be a protractor placer’s paradise. Residents Jim Mueller and Ilona Auth have their own opinions. “It could either be a renegade math freak or someone who just loves intrigue,” Mueller said. “Maybe they’re trying to measure the angle of the hills,” Auth said. It’s a matter of degree. Mark Knobil checks out number 142 next to Lili’s Coffee Shop. “It’s clearly a protractor,” he said. “Three dimensional. It’s stuck on there really well. It’s not going anywhere. Maybe it’s just telling us we have no idea what the heck is going on.”

Vannevar Bush posted a blog about them, here. In tough times, people's sense of humor and whimsical playful side is often the first to go. But the human spirit is irrepressible and this is downright funny. Imagine! Gluing protractors around, and numbering them is pretty funny. I hope that the Protractor Bandit is not caught (police are trying to find the 'defacing graffiti' man to arrest and fine him).  By the way, though I am sure this isn't intentional, the white protractor above is glued next to the Spanish phrase for "I'm sorry."


  1. :) I just love this news story. It gave me such a case of the giggles.

  2. Thanks for passing it along! I love stuff like this but it had completely escaped me. Good catch!

  3. This sounds like the sort of game the nerdy kids would play. It sounds kinda fun.
    (I know, I know..I'm a nerd)
    Peace In Jesus

  4. The crescent moon is the symbol of Islam. Just sayin'.

  5. That's goin' a little far, if you ask me. It is my experience that Muslims who revere Allah don't hide their faith behind obtuse symbolism. They'd just display a crescent flag.

  6. Yeah, it's just a protractor.


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