Saturday, March 12, 2011

Living Signs

I puzzle over the phenomenon of human signs. They appeared on street corners several years ago, waving signs for various businesses, often dressed outlandishly and sometime dancing around. This unsettles me for several reasons.

First, it must demean those who do this. They must feign interest in strangers and reduce themselves to animated signage.

Second, one feels strange being hailed by a stranger for a product or service one does not want. It may be worse than a robot call, since humans are functionally the robots here.

Third, I feel sorry for these souls, no matter how much he or she may smile or dance. Work time must drag on and on. It is often too cold or too hot. And recently, I saw a bedraggled man in an electric wheel chair holding a sign. This was probably the only job he could find.

Why must we have these living signs?


D. A. Armstrong said...

2 Thoughts.

1. While I was attending school in South California, I almost worked as a sign holder. They made $12-$15 an hour, more than some retail jobs, and had time to listen to anything on the mp3 player. I considered it as I had taken some classes independently and had to listen to all the lectures on mp3.

2. In our narcissistic society, it is after all the ultimate look at me job.

TheGroothuisFactor said...

Contra D.A. Armstrong's Point # 2

The ultimate look at me job is that of a celebrity of a reality TV star. It affords more 'status' to the person on camera. They are revered and idolized.

Human sign holders are not revered. They are mocked and seen as goofy. They lose their humanity as Dr. Groothuis points out.

People do not take these jobs for the attention so much as the money. Most of the attention one gets is mockery and jeers. The truly vain want some sort of adoration behind the stares. No one adores these human sign holders.

Point 1 stands, Point 2 does not.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Point two stands if it is person-relative, since I (and others) feel that way. The question is whether one should feel that way.

TheGroothuisFactor said...

"2. In our narcissistic society, it is after all the ultimate look at me job."

Point two emphasizes that it is the "ULTIMATE" look at me job.

Do you really think that a living sign is the "ultimate" look at me job compared to a reality TV star or a webcam star that is being recorded 24 hours a day? I think that a living sign is far from being the ultimate look at me job if ultimate means one that gains the most attention and the most revered attention.

My criticisms in my previous post about point 2 still stand.

Dr. G, I am surprised that you find the living sign to be the ultimate look at me job given your knowledge of Boorstin and Postman.

In fact, out of the living signs I have talked to, NONE of them have done it for narcissistic reasons. All found it a cheap way to make easy money.
On logical and practical grounds I do not see Point 2's emphasis on the ultimate being effective.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

I am not agreeing with Armstrong's #2, but making a comment on my own #2.

TheGroothuisFactor said...

Ah, I see. Thank you for the clarification.