When Otis first started getting good on his bike, we did a lot of rides over to and around the Potsdam public school complex. It’s nearby, surrounded by paved paths, and has lots of large, empty parking lots on the weekends. I think it was him who first noticed that this giant HVAC device on the side of the middle school looked kind of like a robot. And an idea was born.

First things first, I had to do a little recon. I do laps around the athletic fields here pretty frequently, so on one of them I scoped out the security cams. There were two that were concerning, one on either side. Having seen the Justice for Garret HBO documentary, I knew the cameras were in use. I didn’t want to arouse suspicion by being obvious, so on one of my laps I just casually held my phone in my hand as I ran by and pressed the button a bunch of times.

Here’s one of the cameras (pointed away from the future robot):

And here’s the unit itself:

The other camera is one of those bubble-shaped ones, so I couldn’t tell where if it was pointed right at the robot. It’s the little white dot on the wall above the vents:

Overall, though, I decided this would be a pretty safe operation. On to Phase 2, Planning. I drew up some detailed schematics on my phone so that I could talk through the plans with the kids:

I ordered some oversized, self-adhesive googly eyes on Amazon and waited for the time to be right. It was late fall at the time and I didn’t want to put them up right before winter in case they fell off after not too many kids got to see them. So I waited until spring.

That was a fatal mistake, though, because I got busy with work and completely forgot about the whole thing. Summer eventually rolled around and I rediscovered the googly eyes. September was approaching, so it was now or never.

I’ve heard that if you carry a ladder around, you can get into and away with practically anything. I thought about doing it in broad daylight, but then chickened out. I figured early on a Saturday morning would be best. (There’s a church right across the road from the building here.)

I put on a button-down shirt, some Carhart pants, and a hat that I don’t usually wear. A dark-colored COVID mask completed the ensemble. I stuck the ladder in the car and drove a very circuitous route to the neighborhood right next the school. I didn’t want a record of me driving at that hour, so I avoided the nearby hospital cameras too. (Again, the Garret doc.)

Feeling very official looking, I walked over, set up the ladder, stuck on the eyes and took off. In and out, five minutes tops.