Sign People


As I approach the red light at the intersection of Howe and Fair Oaks, I spot a guy on the thin median strip next to my car. He’s sunburned with a grizzled face, holding up a cardboard sign with scrawled, hard-to-read text asking for money. I do not give him anything and feel uncomfortable, although I’m compelled to make eye contact.

I am not eager to be asked for money while traveling in my car; it makes me feel besieged. Like many people, I give at the office and in the store. I pay taxes to help fund city, county, state and federal programs. I give at church, at school, at golf tournaments, luncheons and dinners. I buy raffle tickets and candy bars, sponsor words read and miles walked, paddled and run, all to help less fortunate folks. I may not give at the high level of others, but I try.

In this instance, however, I choose not to.

The huge needs of the poor and disadvantaged and mentally ill and substance-addled are helped greatly by societal giving. But I don’t believe that handing a dollar bill to someone staring at me in traffic is useful. What’s more, it’s dangerous to allow people to balance atop a thin median while traffic roars by. Oftentimes, they have compatriots waiting behind nearby bushes, smoking cigarettes or quaffing Big Gulps until enough money is raised. But for what? Their next smoke, toke, meal, bottle, box of baby diapers or prescription? There is no way to know. I prefer to give to accredited programs rather than to people endangering themselves in traffic. I think the practice should be disallowed.

An interesting contrast is provided on many other curbs and corners&emdash;but not on the medians&emdash;where other sign people stand, often sporting polo shirts, khakis and ear buds, silently rocking out as they wave a placard to persuade me to tour a condo, buy some junk food or join a spa. I find these folks rather amusing, especially those with no rhythm whatsoever, energetically jumping about in blazing heat, sometimes holding their sign upside-down.

These sign laborers, who stand outside in every kind of weather, moving until their arms and legs must ache, remind me of some of the crappy jobs I endured when I was younger&emdash;jobs that proved to be catalysts for getting better jobs. Shaking signs at passing traffic for minimum wage should be a good motivator.

As Sacramento’s 2007 Women in Business reception approaches, I’d like to give special acknowledgment to my wife, Jennifer. Although she does not report to the office every day and was unavailable to participate in this year’s introduction to the Women in Business advertising section (please see page 237), she is of invaluable assistance in our business. She supports the business in many ways, perhaps most notably as a sounding board. She listens to my worries and woes in the early mornings and long into most evenings, which helps us ferret out solutions to evermore complex issues and challenges. She supports my good ideas and stays eerily quiet at the bad ones, helping them to go away.

We invite readers to join our hugely supportive sponsors and advertisers and attend this year’s Women In Business Reception, Thursday, Sept. 27 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center. Each year, attendees remark about how special the evening is&emdash;please come to see for yourself. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 on the day of the event, and all ticket revenue goes to Cure Breast Cancer Inc. For tickets, visit