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There's dignity even in THIS job

Some people REALLY want to work. Just ask that guy dressed as a Beautyrest.

By Donna_Freedman Sep 30, 2011 11:30AM
For a week or so I've been seeing the man in the mattress. He stands on a busy Seattle street waving a sign to advertise the grand opening of a bed store -- while dressed as a Posturepedic.

He could also be a Beautyrest. I don't know from mattresses. What I do know is this: That is a guy who wants to work.

I spoke to him one day: "I'm heading to Walgreens. Could I treat you to some juice or a soda?"

He smiled. "Nah, I just had some coffee. Thanks, though!"

The young man looks to be in his 20s -- like the guy I saw last spring who dressed as the Statue of Liberty to direct folks to a tax-preparation place. Both fellows were willing to put on goofy costumes and stand outside in all kinds of weather, waving signs and enduring the stares of passersby.
Maybe the men didn't qualify for unemployment, or maybe their unemployment had run out. Perhaps these were temporary second gigs, done in addition to night shifts somewhere. Or it could be that they have a checkered background and no one else would hire them.

Whatever the reason for taking the jobs, they did them with dignity -- well, with as much dignity as it's possible to have while dressed as a Sealy or Lady Liberty. Neither man frowned or scowled. They held their signs, waved at passing cars and put up a generally cheerful front for the companies paying them to be there.

I'd bet the pay isn't very much. Maybe they were earning only minimum wage. The operative word is "earning." It's natural to feel sorry for a grown man or woman dressed as a can of 10W-30 and standing outside an oil-change place. That's a gig suited more to a 16-year-old with no work experience.

While it isn't a job I'd want -- and I bet they don't want it either -- it is a job. Neither guy said, "No way am I doing that." Both did what they had to do.

There's plenty of sniping about folks who wouldn't take a job at McDonald's. Some are too proud to wear a paper hat. Others wouldn't because when unemployment just about pays the bills it doesn't make sense to trade that UI check for 20 hours a week at or just above minimum wage.

Yes, I'm bothered by the fact that a low-paying mascot job might be the only thing standing between Mattress Man and an eviction notice. I'm also impressed that he took it.

The next time you see a guy waving a "Store closing! Huge deals!" sign on a corner, why not offer to grab him some coffee or a sandwich? There but for the grace of your current job go you.

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