Protest over SEPTA's use of the S Thing Symbol.

May 13, 2021

Protest over SEPTA's use of the S Thing Symbol.

@train_cody septa
(Image by @train_cody

In the late Summer of 2017 Hunter Curry was a college student riding SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority) to his home in suburban Langhorne, Pennsylvania.

As he sat slack jawed, worn out by the oppressive PA humidity, he couldn’t resist a feeling of further dread that was inflected upon him by SEPTA’s seemingly incompetent logo. A logo which bares interlocking arrows that form a sort of illegible ‘S’. The arrows point sloppily in opposing directions, and form an abstraction of the letter even by the most liberal standards.

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Before his train ride concluded, Curry had decided that a better fit for the SEPTA logo would be what he called a, “middle school S”, and what we call, “the s thing.”

Hunter’s millennial brain kicked in, and he decided that if anything were to be done about this small atrocity, he would need the help of internet strangers. And Hunter called upon those individuals in a fitting manor, considering the magnitude of the situation. He made a Facebook post. The post called for a rally to be held at SEPTA’s headquarters. Persons who wished that the six line, public school style S would replace SEPTA’s current bore of a logo should meet in front of SEPTA headquarters at 13th and Market Street that Wednesday, at the reasonable protest hour of 4 a.m. 

Hunter obviously created the post in order to poke fun at the stagnant logo and overall feel of the Philadelphia transit system. But after he sent it out, he went home and went to bed, thinking nothing more of the jab. The S however has a life of its own.

A combination of nostalgia, and hipster irony turned Hunters jest into an overnight movement. When he awoke the following morning his post had been shared over a thousand times. When the day of the protest rolled around, over five thousand people had shown interest in changing SEPTA’s logo to the ‘S’ thing.

Hunter decided that if this protest was really going to happen he should at least change the time to a more reasonable 4 p.m. So that Wednesday the twenty year old geared up to lead the fight against...mediocre graphic design? Hunter however realized the afternoon of the rally that his financial situation was equally as dire as every other college students, and he didn’t even have the funds to take the train to his own rally.

However, in a true show of millennium valor, Hunter would not be discouraged. The public transit system that was too pricy for college student’s was about to be brought to their knees. And Hunter had so haphazardly emerged as the face of the revolution. He got on his bicycle, and begun to pedal.

The August heat was trying but Hunter knew that the rally needed a leader. He pedaled with fervor, and nervously anticipated the sea of protestors who would be awaiting his arrival. And finally through the summer heat, Hunter cruised into Center City, twenty minutes late.

Hunter Curry

Unfortunately the event proved to be a true product of internet culture, as only three protestors actually showed up on the day of the rally. Hunter however ran twenty minutes late, and by the time he peddled into the rally the three eager protestors had gone home, assuming their leader was a no show.

Ultimately the whole story became a sort of increasingly surreal tale of tongue in cheek humor, combined with internet connectivity, and anchored by a symbol which people seem to find irresistible enticing.

The S thing is a symbol with power. We grow up scribbling the symbol in spiral notebooks, and on school desks. It lures us in young as a small gesture of rebelliousness, and remains ingrained in our psyches long after our youths have slipped away. Hunter Curry used the S to bring together over five thousand people with a common goal. A symbol has power when it resonates with people, and this symbol happens to be a small part of all our lives.

 

Written for The S Thing by James Keary