Saturday, December 22, 2012

Human Directionals

At a parents’ meeting at my daughter’s school, an administrator said she tells the kids, “Study hard. You know the guys on the side of the road, holding signs? You don’t want to be them.”

True, I wouldn’t want my kid trying to eke out enough money to live on being an animated sign post.

But as I drive, day after day, in Houston, I start recognizing the sign-holders. The guy who wore a deep rut in the grass, wearing a foam Statue of Liberty crown and holding a sign counting down the days till April 15th to advertise Liberty Tax Services, turned up further north after tax season, spinning a sign about selling your gold. Over and over again, an old man does robot-like dance moves, making eye contact and pointing individual drivers to the nail salon he advertises. For an open house at some new townhouses, one kid was throwing his arrow-shaped sign, spinning, up in the air and catching it behind his back or under his leg, like a baton. And the arrow always ended up pointing the right way. One kid simply holds his sign over his shoulder, obscuring his head. For some (probably evolutionary) reason, the sight of his headless body makes me do a double-take every time.

They are called “sign spinners,” “sign twirlers” and (my favorite) “human directionals.” Sometimes they are represented by agencies. Some have trained formally to learn tricks and take part in competitions. Here in Houston, their going rate is $10 per hour. Some cities have tried to ban them, out of concern that they distract drivers.

People try to find meaning in whatever job they can get. Whether we studied hard or not, isn’t that what we all end up doing?

1 comment:

  1. I have to agree finding meaning behind what you do is the most important aspect. This economy is a tough one and sometimes hard work is hard work in whatever form it manifests. But, I think instead these parents taking a negative approach it could also be taken as a positive reinforcement in "look at how hard he/she is working". It has been my experience that younger individuals seem to have an entitlement mind set that they carry into their adult years.