The Grapes of Wrath – A Reboot

I see them every time I drive through town, shaking their signs on the street corners, living the dream for eight bucks an hour. Some are gyrating, some are flipping their placards like a baton twirler at a halftime show, some appear to be doing nothing more than hiding their faces. I always give a sympathy wave, knowing it could just as easily be me out there. Or so I thought.

My struggles to find work since we moved to Colorado five years ago have been well documented here. There was a short stint as a copywriter for a marketing firm, but when a deal for a proposed real estate magazine fell through, so did the job. Then came a six month stretch where I worked as a ‘Reset Merchandiser’ – otherwise known as ‘overnight stockboy’ – but the commute (sometimes four hours or more, to places like Lander, Wyoming and Alliance, Nebraska) was killing my car and the hours were killing me. So, sadly, I turned my back on a promising career in canned goods coordination. I also dabbled in construction and impersonated a barista, briefly. At the moment I do some freelance writing, but that hardly pays for the electricity to keep the laptop turned on.

Even so, I wasn’t in full panic mode because of what amounted to my ace in the hole, what I always viewed as being my desperation job, my “In Case of Emergency, Break Glass” last resort for employment. Sign shaker – a job I might actually have a shot at landing, mainly because I figured the competition wouldn’t be so fierce.

But then, spotted on the corner today – where previously there had always been an irritatingly happy individual tossing the ‘Farmers’ Market’ placard around with reckless abandon while sharing a friendly wave – was this contraption forlornly rocking the sign back and forth.sign3

Even at minimum wage and no bennies, it’s tough to compete with that. I guess those sign spinning leeches have finally proven to be just too damned costly. That kind of crippling business expense is surely the anchor that’s dragging down the economy. And the world will be a better place without them. Grinding like porn stars out in public and flipping those signs so fast we motorists couldn’t even make out which business we were supposed to be patronizing. I’m sure that money will be much better spent on some CEO’s bonus check.

Oh well – I probably would have thrown my back out in the first ten minutes anyway. I’ll just have to find something else for which I am vastly over-qualified. At this point the choice comes down to whether I look better in a paper hat or that day-glow vest the guy collecting carts down at Walmart gets to wear. Until, of course, the machines come for those jobs.

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14 thoughts on “The Grapes of Wrath – A Reboot

  1. Consider a career and “appropriating and remarketing” sign shaking devices. It may be high-risk, though I cannot see law-enforcement getting too excited, but it is a niche with potential.

  2. Oh man, that Farmers Market sign gave me such a sad. Freelance is dreadful. Dull, easy, losing jobs to people who aren’t natives but will do it for pennies, barely enough pay to keep a writer off the corner as is….Hey, how’s your corner lookin? lol
    As always, wishing you the best!

  3. When we moved here we stayed in temporary housing for a month while we waited for our stuff. It was a new complex called “Domus on the Boulevard” and they were trying to get permanent renters. One of the ways they did that was to have a person standing on a corner twirling a sign that said “Domus” with a big arrow underneath. That was actually the first time I’d seen a sign twirler. It looked like hard, unpleasant work!

  4. This is interesting. I’d not seen one of those sign flippers until perhaps six months ago. Now, I’ve seen three — all associated with apartment complexes that were off the main road by a block or more. I was going to say I’d look for different work during this summer heat, but… uh… I work outdoors. Still, the boredom threshold is much higher for my boat work.

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