We had our weekly Team Meeting the other day at work in our seminar room, seated on the matching chairs rescued from a skip in the car-park last summer. Couldn't help noticing (as you do) the fascinating variety of misshapen stains on the pale yellow fabric seat covers. Then a colleague pointed out that every stain tells a story!* and we all recoiled in disgust, uttering loud uuurgghhs and yeeuuchhs! Probably just food and drink, and not stains of the bodily fluid variety (that would be a bit unsavoury to dwell on, but then you never know...). Disgust aside, it's very true - each stain does tell a story, of human behaviour and activity (and possibly being a little bit messy).
It reminded me of something a member of staff from Art did a few years back**, looking at the relationship between human activity and the environment, and the way people inadvertently leave physical traces of where they've been and what they've done. Over a weekend when no-one was around, he had painted all the blobs of old chewing gum squashed flat on the stretch of pavement outside the main college building, in a variety of colours. It was interesting turning up for work on the Monday morning, to be confronted with loads (hundreds?) of coloured blobs all over the pavement. The original stains (or blobs) had been there for ages, almost a semi-permanent part of busy London streets... I'd just never noticed them. After that, I started seeing chewing gum blobs everywhere I went. What messy slobs people seem to be, or maybe just human, leaving traces wherever we go (and not just in the CSI forensic science way either). I was quite disappointed when the colours gradually wore off the chewing gum, as I really liked that installation.
* We are intending to get the chairs professionally cleaned soon and they're not as bad as you might think... there's nothing actually wrong with them and we're not wallowing in filth either! They were just too good not to recycle and rescue from the skip.
** I think it might have been done by Uriel Orlow, but I may be wrong.