ONLY IN HOUSTON
James Minor's workday begins a lot like yours. He arrives at a work station, checks his materials, puts on a smile and readies for another day of being the face of his employer.
For the most part, that's where the similarities end. For the next several hours, Minor will do everything he can to dodge traffic and draw attention to himself and the business he's promoting as a "human directional." He'll be positioned on a street corner or median, waving, dancing and twirling a three-foot sign, all in the hopes passersby will see him and commit to memory what he's selling before driving by.
As he works, sometimes under a hot sun, or maybe in frigid temperatures, he'll listen to music to get through the day, the same as other salespeople or marketing professionals sitting in offices elsewhere. Sometimes, what pours through his earbuds will get his feet moving or provide the rhythm for his adept sign spinning, a practiced sales technique.
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Other times, he'll tune into songs to keep him plugging through the day.
"I listen to everything. I live with a music teacher, so you kind of get a little bit of everything that way," he says. "I have very diverse tastes in what I listen to — hip-hop, rock — a little bit of everything."
Minor's been on the job for a year. He's visiting Houston, here for the last month by way of New York to help open a new market for his employer, AArrow Advertising, considered a leader in the human-billboard industry thanks to its employees' showboat sign-spinning techniques.
AArrow's "spinners" frequently perform at music events or in videos, and their music industry clients have included Snoop Dogg, 311 and The Ting Tings.
"I got recruited straight out of high school, worked up the ladder pretty quickly. It's a very, very good job to have. It pays very well," Minor says. "Basically, what we do is advertise."
Boy, do they ever. In metro areas like Houston, where drivers are frequently bound by bumper-to-bumper traffic, they're ubiquitous. Mornings and afternoons, they're out in numbers and, apparently, quite a few are listening to Skrillex and company.
"Dubstep, drumstep, something fast-paced to keep your heart going," Minor says.
Amanda, who was advertising for a local smoke shop down the street, agrees that electronic dance music is a good way to go.
"Normally, I listen to 97.9, but I had a bunch of CDs and dubstep songs mixed on my computer, so we just downloaded them to my iPod and I went along with it," she says with an easy laugh.
She says she's in just her second week of human billboarding, but she's enjoying it and is doing it as a side gig. She also believes musical variety keeps the workday from stalling and said she listens to "Spanish music, rock, rap, hip-hop, pop...anything."
Some "sign walkers" aren't content simply to listen to the selections on their playlists. Shaun Jones is a student who took an advertising job three months ago to help his mother with finances. He's usually posted at the edge of a median, a concrete platform for the young man to showcase his smooth Latin dance moves.
"I listen to reggaeton, salsa, merengue," he says. "I like the bachata artists, like Prince Royce, Romeo Santos [and] Thalia."
While Jones dances, across town in the suburbs, Jared Ebert, a high-school junior, sings while signing. He's a musician who performs with bands at his church. Roll down the window when you're passing by and you're likely to catch him belting out the song playing through his earbuds.
"I actually listen to my worship music," says Ebert, who plays guitar, drums, bass and piano. "This is actually where I get my practice in for singing for church."
ASK WILLIE D
THE ADULTEROUS PASTOR
A reader of the cloth wonders if God's gonna get him for a recent affair.
Dear Willie D:
I am a pastor who just returned from a spiritual retreat with my church and found myself in bed with a married member of my congregation. The whole time we were making love, I kept thinking about Deuteronomy 22:22 in the Bible where it states, "If a man is found sleeping with another man's wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die."
I have asked for forgiveness, and since my God is a forgiving God, I am certain he will spare my life. However, I am not so sure my church member's husband is a forgiving husband, and I know my wife won't be forgiving. My wife is a very jealous and vengeful woman. If she found out about my infidelity, she would kill the woman and me or at the least try to assassinate my character and have me forced out of the church.
The incident took place two days ago and the crazy woman has already sent me over 50 text messages talking about how good it was and how she misses me. She even had the gall to get defensive when she called and I told her I could not talk because I was with my wife. I hope my premonition is inaccurate, but I have a feeling this thing will implode at any moment. Accordingly, I am paranoid.
People usually come to me for advice, but I am stumped as to what to do in this case. If you were in my shoes, how would you handle it?
Your biggest problem is not what you did but who you are. I'm not saying it's right, but people cheat all the time, forgive one another and move on. In your case, because you are a man of the cloth and your profession is rooted in preaching the importance of values and morals, you're held at a higher standard. Accordingly, you are expected to have zero tolerance for temptation.
The way I see it, you have two viable options. You could take the player option, whereby you would go to the woman and say, "Look, although I enjoyed what happened between us, in the eyes of God, it was a mistake. You're a wonderful woman, but so is my wife. She doesn't deserve this and neither does your husband. The text messages and calls have to stop. I'm sorry and I hope we can continue to share the same church home." Reference God, sin and obedience whenever possible.
If she doesn't respond favorably, you may have to put your big-boy pants on and switch to option two, which would require you to man up and confess to your wife. Lay out all the details, throw up a Hail Mary and hope like hell she forgives you. This is risky, but not as risky as allowing the crazy woman to tell her side of the story first or you lying about it, because chances are she has evidence of the affair stored somewhere.
Now touch your neighbor and say, "It ain't worth it! I keep looking over my shoulder and peeping 'round corners — Hallelujah!"
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