At least they have a job
While it might be hard to feel sorry for anybody who still has a job these days, I can’t resist pitying the poor individuals whose duty it is to promote a business by holding a sign or wearing a costume while standing by the side of the road.
Both variations come with intrinsic humiliations. If you’re only holding a placard – usually on the corner near a store that’s going out of business – it may not be as stifling hot, but you’re open to the taunts of anyone you’ve ever known who happens to be driving by. If you’re wearing a cow costume outside a Chick-fil-A or a Little Caesar’s suit at the pizza shop, at least no one will be able to identify you, or the lifeless heap you leave behind after the heatstroke. You can’t even pass the time by checking your text messages without betraying your role (whoever heard of a first century Roman tyrant, much less a cow, carrying a cell phone?).
I saw the worst example yet the other day outside a bedding store near my home. Someone had cut three holes into a mattress and then paid an innocent teenager to stick his head and two forearms through the holes so he could wave and smile at oncoming traffic. He had become a profusely sweating Mr. Mattress, eager to publicize up to 40% off select bed sets. Store owners had provided a barstool to give him some measure of comfort, and to convince motorists he wasn’t being pilloried.
I stopped by later to take a picture of the unfortunate kid (don’t worry, I would’ve shot it from behind; I’m not that insensitive), but all that was left was the stool. Still photography wouldn’t have done the barbaric scene justice anyway. Only video could’ve shown how the urgent arm-waving made it appear less like he was a welcoming mascot, and more like he was being consumed by a pillow-top inner spring.
Probably not what he had in mind when he considered a career in advertising.
New Olympic event?
I’d like to propose a new track-and-field event for the 2012 Olympics: a 100-yard race in which you’re not allowed to move your arms. Tests would need to be conducted to determine whether rules should require runners to willfully hold their own upper limbs in check tight by their sides, or whether strong elastic strapping was permitted. I’m flexible on the subject, as long as they don’t move their arms.
Needling the wife
Jogging on the edge of a rough neighborhood recently, I looked down to see a discarded hypodermic needle lying in the road. Feeling like I needed to do something about it, I poked at it with my shoe. It seemed, though, that this wasn’t enough, that I needed also to inform an authority. But who?
When I arrived home a few minutes later, I told me wife about the hazard. We both agreed that calling 911 or even the police office was a bit of an over-reaction. She contended that the same city officials who cart off animal carcasses could deal with used drug paraphernalia, while I thought it would require somebody wearing a hazmat suit. This led to a spirited discussion of which would be worse – touching a dead possum or risking exposure to hepatitis.
We’ve been married for almost 27 years now, and I’m proud to say we still haven’t run out of things to talk about.
When roaming free may not be good
The health food supermarket where I occasionally do my blogging has a very nice specialty meat section, complete with signs pointing out the advantages of eating humanely-raised animals. One of the items they sell is “free-roaming lamb.” While I’ve heard of free-range chicken and pasture-raised cattle, I have a little trouble imagining how allowing young sheep to wander the countryside would improve their flavor. Seems like a lot of them would just end up tasting like whatever kind of pickup truck they were hit by.
I drove my Honda Civic through the automated car wash not too long ago and was pleased to discover that they had improved the instructions for drivers using the service. After you enter your number on a keypad, you pull forward into the bay, positioning your vehicle precisely so that the pipes and spray hoses can work properly.
There’s a large digital sign containing four phrases, each with a bright red light bulb next to them. The top one says “pull forward,” the middle one reads “stop” and the third one says “back up.” Sensors detect if you’re in the right spot, and then you can inch forward or back to make the proper adjustment. Skilled driver that I am, I hit it right on the nose, then sat back and enjoyed the soothing pelt of water on the windows.
When I was done, the light next to the fourth phrase lit up. “Thank you,” it said. This was apparently my cue to leave, as well as the robot’s way of showing its gratitude for my patronage. I thought we hit a new low in business transactions when the dot-matrix “THANK YOU” at the bottom of your receipt served as your appreciation. I should’ve known that American enterprise could always go lower.
It takes a genius
Readers of the “Ask Marilyn” column in yesterday’s Parade Magazine witnessed further evidence that American’s general level of intelligence has sunk even further.
For those unfamiliar with the piece (typically, I wouldn’t admit reading Parade Magazine either), Marilyn Vos Savant parlayed her fame as holder of the world record for highest IQ into a weekly column answering readers’ most difficult question. Common queries are along the lines of “what is truth?” or “could the sun burn out tomorrow?”
Yesterday’s question was a little less challenging: “What makes islands float?”
Abusing the kindness of others
Anybody familiar with the Panera bakery chain knows how generous they are with their facilities. The free wi-fi, roomy tables and intense air-conditioning are a magnet to both people looking to conduct informal business meetings and those just interested in checking their Facebook pages.
Some of the business people, however, seem to be getting a little out of control. Hooking up your laptop for hours is one thing, but conducting job interviews, offering sales presentations and bringing a portable printer to set up at the adjoining table are simply taking unfair advantage. The shop nearest my work recently had their entire back room taken over for a sales meeting, complete with projection equipment and loud, annoying pep talks.
I fear it won’t be long before we encounter the human resources manager who chooses to take his downsizing announcement offsite. “I’m sorry to inform everyone that your positions have been eliminated effective this coming Friday,” he might announce. “Please accept this cinnamon crunch bagel as a sign of my condolence.”
Math 101 — no, make that 165
Spent $165 this weekend for two introductory mathematics books my son will be using during his freshman year at college this fall. While I’m confident he’ll do well in the course, I can’t help but have the feeling that I just failed some kind of basic math.