There were two women on scooters in the lane next to me when I drove home from work on Monday. I was in the right hand turn lane and the scooters were going through the light. The women were both gray haired and overweight. I found it strange to see them on expensive Honda scooters. I always expect Mods in suits when I see scooters, but I guess that only pertains to Vespas. The light changed and the scooters drove away, but there wasn’t enough time for me to turn, so I was still stuck at the light. “At least I’m at the head of the line now,” I thought to myself.
On the corner of 7th East and 21st South there were two fast food employees. One was from Little Caesar’s Pizza and the other was from Quizno’s Subs. They held their respective signs and moved rhythmically in an attempt to attract the attention of the drivers. The human billboards were pointedly ignoring each other, as if you could ignore a person with a huge sign in their arms. I watched them, mesmerized by their movement. I watched their eyes, wondering if they would notice each other’s existence. If eye contact is made, do human billboards fight?
It was obvious that they were miserable. Human billboard must be on the bottom of menial tasks that you are subjected to when you work for fast food. “Hey, Monson, go outside with the sign and wave cars into the parking lot.” The employee complains, “No please, don’t make me do that. Why can’t I clean the toilets? I promise to wash my hands afterwards.” The boss is firm, “No, Monson, get outside or I’ll make you wear the Little Caesar costume.” With that threat, Monson picks up the large sign and trudges outside.
Of all the menial jobs I’ve done in my life, I’ve never had to be a human billboard. Would I rather clean the fryer filter? Yes. Would I rather clean out the garbage compactor? Yes. Would I rather mindlessly process pharmacy claims until my hands ache? You betcha. Even mind numbing boredom is better than being a human billboard.
I don’t know how long I watched their swaying signs. They were almost hypnotic. They didn’t entice me to eat pizza or submarine sandwiches. In fact, they made me a little angry at the restaurants for subjecting their employees to this. It would be different if they looked like they enjoyed it. Maybe if they had hired entertaining mimes or something, I would actually think that they were ingenious. Instead, they just seemed cruel.
I was awoken from my reverie when I glanced at the light. The green arrow had come and gone and all I had was the tail end of an amber arrow. I took it, as did the car behind me, and we rushed through the intersection. I’m surprised that the car behind me didn’t beep at me. Maybe they were hypnotized by the human billboards, too.
UPDATE: 09-22-04 Check out Michael Main’s take on the Human Billboard concept…