Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Laziest Sign-Holder Ever

Budget: -$312.18

Yesterday, before I got—or realized I'd get—work for the day, I accepted a ticket for work at the Office Depot today, holding a sign at an intersection. If this were to happen on the road, I'd go ahead with it, so I went ahead with it now. I figure also that if work turns out to be easy to get somewhere, and I have a relatively safe place to stay or pitch my tent, why not stick around for a few days and build myself more of a cushion? Inevitably, I think, there will be difficult stretches awaiting me, and I think it is best that once I'm on the road, I be flexible and willing to make extra money when it comes easily.

And so I caught a bus to Peabody and got off at the outskirts, by the dismantled Office Depot. The dismantling had actually been fun, but I wasn't looking forward to holding the sign. Just the thought made me depressed.

As I walked by the back entrance, I didn't even notice some workers throwing stuff into the dumpster until one of them yelled "There's my man!" I looked over. Every single face was familiar from yesterday.

"Oh, hey!" I said.

"Why aren't you working?"

"I will be. I'm holding a sign today."

"Holding a sign? Man, you lucked out! Getting a tan!"

"Yeah, I guess so.... Well, I'd better go get my sign."

"All right, man, see you later."

As I walked away, I heard them continue to talk.

"Whooo! Sign boy!"

"Damn, why don't we get to do that?"

Then I turned the corner and couldn't hear them anymore.

I got my sign, saying that Office Depot was selling its remaining merchandise at 60%-80% off, as well as the fixtures that had survived the dismantling. The guy called to check where I was to stand and told me how to get there.

"You have a car?"


".... It's a quarter mile or so from here."

"That's cool."

He gave me a look, then said "OK, thank you."

And I walked off with the sign.

When I got to the intersection, I very quickly realized that I REALLY didn't want to hold that sign. Three minutes in, it was clear that five hours of this would NOT be cool. There had to be a way out. And I already knew what it was.

I took the lace out of my boot.

Then I tied the sign to a traffic light in the middle of the intersection.

The traffic light and boot lace did no worse with the sign than I would have.

Then I sat down on the curb, took a journal I'd brought out of my pocket, and started reading a paper with the (relatively simple) details of how Bernard Madoff's scheme had worked. I also signed my phone on to AIM and chatted.

I moved on to a paper about the differences between India's elite and India's populance as far as attitudes toward Pakistan, Russia and the US. I imagined people in passing cars turning to each other and saying "That's the laziest sign holder I've ever seen."

I finished that paper and went on to an essay about Hollywood in 1980.

Occasionally, a passing car would honk and someone would flash me a thumbs-up, which I'd flash back.

The five hours passed pretty quickly, I untied the sign, relaced my boot, and walked back to the former Office Depot. No questions were asked, a woman just said "thank you" and signed my ticket. $40.

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