An Open Letter to the Sign Dancers of the World

by Cooper Young

I’ll admit it: I have no idea what your real title is. I don’t know what you put on your resume. You know who you are, though: those unfortunate individuals we see on street corners and sidewalks holding up pieces of cardboard or (heaven help you) wood and dancing to attract attention to them. You are the flashing billboards of businesses too small to afford flashing billboards. Sometimes you wear costumes. Sometimes you provide your own music. However you do it, you’re out there regardless of hour or season, fighting the wind and the douchebags who throw things at you to do a job that, quite literally, a monkey could do.

Despite the recent weather (i.e. the fact that Colorado Springs has lately been MADE OF WIND), I see more and more of you out there every day, and every time I do there’s something I’m dying to tell you:

You guys make me stupid happy. Every last damn one of you makes my day, and when you see a woman in a Buick wearing aviators and a bandanna wave at you grinning, there is absolutely no cynicism in it. I love you guys. Seriously.

It’s not schadenfreude, either. Your job is shitty and we all know it, but it isn’t pity that makes me so happy to see you. No, it’s the fact that I’ve yet to see one of you who isn’t putting heart and soul into your shitty job. You rock out. You smile and wave and try to look drivers right in the eye. When it comes to acting like you’re happy nobody can hold a candle to you guys, whether or not you happen to be faking it.

There are three of you I would most like to hug.

To the MMJ guy up on South Academy: Odds are, you’re baked to hell a good percentage of the time; you certainly give off that impression. I don’t care. As annoyed as I am with the fifteen dispensaries (note to people not from ’round here: that’s in no way an exaggeration) on my street, if you’ve managed to find a job in an industry you support and love, you’ve done a sight better than most of us ever will. Keep the dream alive, friend.

To Lady Liberty on the corner of 19th and Uintah: I have never before seen someone do the running man while trying to hold a foam crown on one-handed in a wind storm. Kudos. All of the kudos. Like, someone should buy you all of those chocolate granola bars, because there is no way any human can maintain that kind of energy without a snack. Also, I don’t know how you manage to always keep rhythm to whatever I happen to be listening to when I pass you, but it’s astounding to the point of being terrifying. I have like 6 stations I jump between. It’s like you’ve found some sort of universal rhythm. You, my dear, have talent.

To the old guy on Colorado and Sahwatch: I only saw you once, but there was something about you— the appearance of recent homelessness, the supreme dignity with which you walked, and the arrow-shaped sign which said only “BOOKS”—that was profoundly moving. There was something about watching a faded man and what some feel is a fading industry walk slowly into the sunset together, glaring defiance at every passerby, which quite nearly brought me to tears. You are the image that pops into my head when someone quotes Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” and, sir, I sincerely hope you don’t.

In a world as sardonic as this, nothing makes me as happy as the sincerity which so many of you exude, whether it’s because you enjoy your job, you’re happy to just have a job, or you’re determined to have fun regardless of your job. Maybe I’m silly, maybe I’m naïve, but seeing strangers smile in a crappy situation gives me a little more hope. I guess what I’m really trying to say is “Thank you”.

Thank you for the hope, for the happiness. Dance on; somebody loves you.