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.
* * * *
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