Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Dancing Street Sign Guy

I've been watching this guy for a few weeks now.  He is either really, really desperate to make some money, or just plain happy-go-lucky crazy.  Maybe both.  But he makes me laugh, and right now I take my chuckles anywhere I can find them.  

He has taken what could be, and by all accounts probably should be, a boring, humiliating job and turned it into something else entirely.  Exactly what he has turned it into, well I am not sure, but it is fun to watch.

He stands on a street corner near where my son K. lives, and variously displays, holds, dances with, caresses, and plays with a mobile phone sign - a great big one.  The sign is almost as big as he is tall.  There is an actual name for such a job:  sign spinners.  I have seen the employment ads.  They are also called "live billboards."

I have read, and heard somewhere, that the people who do the street-sign-advertising-dancing-billboard-thing get paid minimum wage; that is, unless they really move around with that thing and call a lot of attention to the sign.  In the latter case, I am told they can make around fifteen dollars an hour, or about double the minimum wage.

So this guy clearly is  motivated to move.  But he has taken it to a whole other level.  He lunges, then freezes in place, then twirls it, stands it straight on end, while balancing it on one palm (and this thing is about six feet long and two feet wide) then whirls it again.  All this action is accompanied by a variety of facial expressions ranging from goofy to faux-menacing.

He makes eye contact as the cars drive by.  He does not wink, or flirt in anyway, but rather he gives direction with his eyes, which seem to say "look at this sign" - "come on into the store" - "oh, come on, you know you want to" - "why not stop in and buy a new cell phone ?".

Then he plays a wildly energetic ditty on his sign-cum-air-guitar.  Some drivers honk encouragement and I have watched others give him a thumbs-up sign as they drive by.  He is just plain fun.

His build suggests he may be an athlete, or a professional dancer - he is muscular but very lithe.  And he varies his "look" from day to day.  One day it is aviator shades, a t-shirt and knee-shorts.  Next day it is a stocking cap, jeans, and combat boots.  He makes each ensemble look like a costume in his own little drama, played out before thousands of cars driving by his corner each day. 

The other day it finally struck me what he had managed to turn this odd gig into:  performance art.  I am not kidding you, he has.  He is entertaining and engaging all in the five seconds it takes to drive by him.

But there is more to him that a hat and a sign.  Here is how I know this.  Last week a mobile phone competitor had put their own street-sign-wielding-guy on the same corner.  He was short, a little chubby and not very well coordinated.  I happened to be stopped by the red signal light, so I got to watch this tableau play out.

The new guy tried a twirl with his sign.  It made one pitiful half circle and fell off his arm.  The "artful" pro clapped him on the shoulder in a friendly manner and showed him how to hold it so that it would whirl around two or three times before coming to rest in the upright position.   The other guy smiled, they exchanged a couple of words, and each went back to their respective sections of the corner.

The show was back on for the pro-guy as he lunged, laughed, and pumped his sign.  The other guy sighed and tried to make sure his was at least held up over his head for a few seconds.  After all there was money on the line here.
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How many of us would take a job that required us to make foolish looking gyrations on a street corner, make it into an entertainment venue, and then even help out the newcomer as he tried to imitate us?  Not too many, I would venture to guess.

So here is this guy, doing what he can to make the very most of an odd job, and even demonstrating generosity and kindness while doing it.  I was impressed.

Just goes to show you, it doesn't take a large venue in life to make a positive impression.  Just some heart, a sense of humor, and a little kindness.

Until next time .... Marsha


  1. What an inspiring and interesting post! I am impressed along with you!

  2. What a terrific attitude- do the very best you can with what you've got, AND have the generosity fo spirit to share what you know with others. He sounds like a winner to me!

  3. I've seen this guys with the street signs often & thought what a bad job that would have to be. It's so awesome to know that someone has a positive enough outlook on life to be happy with what he has. I agree with Shelly- he sounds like a winner to me too :)

  4. We have a similar guy dancing with a pizza sign, and he's so much fun to watch. Your fellow is an inspiration, though, helping his competitor - way to go, Mr. Dancing Feet!

  5. Me thinks you've been really checkin' this guy out, Marsha. Does LOC know about this guy??!! LOL Just askin'. . .


  6. The world definately needs people like this guy. He sounds like he deserves to be successful in whatever he does.

  7. My dad used to say that "if you are gonna be a septic tank cleaner, be the BEST septic tank cleaner possible."

  8. I've seen the gamut of sign carriers on corners and just recently remarked to my hubby how you have to be cut out to do it. The best ones are the pure sanguine personalities and I just love to see them. The laughter in my car is healing!

  9. We have those here also...and they always make me smile and just lift up my day.

    Your ending comment...convicting. It really doesn't take much for any of us to take the mundane and make it livelier and also cheer someone up.

  10. I like to see someone make the best of a job, even something others might consider to be beneath them. Those with a positive attitude have more fun, make life more fun for others, and might even find their enthusiasm leading to bigger and better things.

  11. Neat post Marsha. It reinforces something I've known for a long time. Some people do a good job at whatever they do.
    I've worked with people earning $100 K and doing shoddy half-assed (excuse my language) work.
    Then our staff assistant who didn't earn squat, did a REMARKABLE job.

  12. I agree with Rick, above. Some people, no matter what the job, will always go above and beyond. Your street corner guy is one of those. It's a treat to be around those people - especially when they're born performers!

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