the sign people

I’ve been thinking about the Sign People. You know, those people who stand at the roadsides and wave signs advertising items and services. The people who are strumming cardboard guitars, sporting sequined Statue of Liberty gowns with foam rubber headpieces, or (for our local bed store) wearing mattresses.

I’m amazed by these people. They are always in motion: dancing, strumming, waving. They are outside in wind, rain, and sun. They stand alarmingly close, in some cases, to busy lanes of traffic. They are resilient.

I wonder about these people. How did they end up with such jobs? Do they mind being laughed or smiled at (not at them, but at the comical sight they make dancing next to the road in their outfits) by passers-by? Or are they laughing at us, the suckers who crane our necks as we drive past, trying to read their signs or, in my case, to read the expressions on their faces?

Usually, the faces look bored. It’s almost a relief to note this after the initial impression of boundless, dancing energy. I’d be bored, too. Many times, I’ll notice ear buds connecting them to an MP3 player, radio, or some device that takes their minds away from what they’re doing. Maybe he’s listening to Shakespeare or Tolstoy, I think. Maybe that job wouldn’t be so bad after all. He’s getting exercise.

These jobs are a testament, I feel, to a new stretch of capitalism. What does it say about our society that human beings have become living, breathing commercials? Is it degrading? I don’t know. Honestly, I am not trying to make a sweeping political statement with this post. I’ve just been thinking about the Sign People, and wondered if other people have thought about them, too.


2 Responses

  1. It’s funny to see Sign People that put no effort into their work. Once I noticed a man sitting in a chair NEXT TO a sign that was in the ground. He had his shades on, his snacks sitting next to him, and was obviously working on improving his tan. I thought “How unambitious can a person be, other than the person too lazy to apply for that position?” Being paid to be a human signpost, perhaps he decided to let the sign do all the work.

    I’ve wondered why a company would pay a person an hourly wage to stand on the sidewalk with a sign, when it would be a lot cheaper to plant a sign in the ground. While a person wearing a mattress is going to attract a lot more attention than would an immobile sign on a stake, it doesn’t seem that the Sign People are very successful in attracting customers. As you noted, the most they seem to accomplish is amusing those passing by. Of course, advertising appeals to those that are immediately in the market for the product while also making the brand name memorable enough that it can be recalled later by potential customers.

  2. Sign people have been on my mind lately too…especially the guy dressed as Lady Liberty. Isn’t that wrong to have a GUY Liberty?? I wonder if he knows his costume is a girl’s?

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