Never spoke with any of these capitalist sentinels, with their often sour faces and far off eyes. Sometimes I beep, not to be a jerk but to acknowledge their existence, projecting my own existential terror of invisibility in the face of car after car, stare after stare, hour after hour.
But today’s different, I’m walking by, and I want answers.
He was maybe 5'5" and standing proud, three feet off roaring Cedar Road, silver lip ring, worn down face, no laces in his black off-brand sneakers. Mucho tattoos visible, guessing plenty more underneath. Mountain Dew at the ready.
His sign SHOUTED in black and red lettering—10% off, 20% off, 50% off…this item only (or everything must go), storewide (or select departments), today (or always), now (but definitely not never). Step right up. Commercial climaxes guaranteed.
"Hey, how ya doin'…how much do you get paid to stand out here?" I thought he said $5/hour. I was outraged, it being Labor Day weekend and all. And here he is breathing gas fumes, all muggy, the man making money off his misery. But I misheard; it was $10/hour. Works 5 hours a day, pockets $50 cash. Oh.
Suddenly it’s clear, he’s no fool (or else I am too). I make the same doing part-time office work. We’re both out there working, both getting stiffed by a still ailing economy. Only he’s standing, and I happen to be sitting.