After the sixth red light in a row that I have had to stop and cool my heels, I see Dancing Sign Guy. He’s out on his corner spinning his cardboard sign around and around until it looks like he might catch air and start flying into the sky. I’m curious about what he has to say, but I can’t read the stinking sign. Hey, Dancing Sign Guy, calm down a minute so I can see what you’re peddling!
He never makes eye-contact with me or anyone else. His baseball cap is pulled low over his brow and it is just barely touching the top of his mirrored sunglasses. He has a tank top on underneath a loosely flowing short-sleeved plaid top and low riding khaki shorts. My guess is that he’s ten minutes away from jumping on his board and skating to the park.
I always wonder about Dancing Sign Guy. I mean, how does one get that kind of work? Was it a job that was just handed to him or was it one that he actually went looking for? I guess I shouldn’t project my feelings on to Dancing Sign Guy but I just know that I could never live with a job where I spun a piece of cardboard all day, hoping that someone would see my wondrous act and…what? I still can’t see the damn sign!
The light is taking extra-long to turn green today and I start to create a story for him. He’s really just a musician that can’t be tied down to a regular 9 to fiver and picked this gig so that he could come and go as he pleases. He gets paid in cash and, after putting some it away into the savings account he has for moving to L.A., he goes to meet his buddies at the bar where they have a 10 pm show. He has a girlfriend that he shares an apartment with and she’s going to meet up with him soon. I mean, who knows what his deal really is, but I find it very nice to think there’s a real purpose to why he’s spending his day on the side of the road, sucking up the exhaust from all of us driving back and forth to wherever we’re spending the day.
Starting to tap my fingers impatiently on the steering wheel, I notice Dancing Sign Guy’s face. He’s chill, happy even, and he kind of looks like he has pride in his work. It’s almost as if he thinks he’s in the middle of an audition for a new reality show. He doesn’t care if someone reads the sign (obviously) but he really, really cares that people are watching him. And we’re watching. Of course we are. We’re watching out of the sides of our eyes because we don’t want him to catch us watching him, but we’re watching. We’ll be watching for the next half hour if the effing light doesn’t turn green. Grrr.
I glance at the man again. How did business advertisement evolve (devolve?) to a dude on the corner spinning a cardboard sign? I don’t own a business that I have ever had to promote so I don’t know, but is there some law that was passed that says it’s legal to have a sign on a busy street corner as long as it’s not touching the ground? Who is the first person to pitch this idea as being good? I wish I could have been in on that meeting. I give kudos to the whole thinking outside of the box thing, but does sign spinning really help the bottom line? Was there any worry about whether or not they could find someone that would be willing to stand in the hot sun for hours on end as their job? I would have never bought into it, but what the hell do I know?
Finally, the light turns green and I am moving on but Dancing Sign Guy is still in my thoughts. You know, would that really be such a terrible job? He gets to wear shorts and he gets to listen to music, and he has one hell of a tan. He only has to worry about himself and he seems to have a good vibe about the entire experience. Maybe I’m in the wrong line of work. I’m on the pale side so far this summer and I feel tired and drained. I don’t get to wear shorts or listen to music while working (unless I count songs about the ABC’s or crazy chickens—which I don’t) and I’m not driving home smiling today. Things that make you go hmm…
Nah, it would never work out. I don’t like standing for long periods of time and I would have to drag a fifty gallon jug worth of water to whatever corner I would be working (Wow! That got kind of kinky). I might be able to pull off the sign spinning fairly well because of all the skills I acquired being part of the Color Guard in high school (you know, back in the Crustaceous period) but I don’t think I would like everyone watching me and laughing every time I dropped the sign on the ground (trust me, it would happen). Plus, I like making a decent salary and let me just say I don’t think that Dancing Sign Guy is swimming in the Grey Poupon.
So, goodbye for now Dancing Sign Guy. I know that I have seen you spinning at that exact corner for at least six months now, and that I will probably see you again soon. I hope to finally know who you’re working for even though I don’t imagine I’ll be rushing in to buy anything when I find out. I’m glad you seem to be having a great time and I hope that it continues to be a good job for you. It’s time for me to move on. There’s another guy about three blocks up that seems to enjoy dressing like the Statue of Liberty. I HAVE to go see what he’s up to.
Image: J.L. Sousa/register napavalleyregister.com