It's 10:45am on an overcast Saturday morning in February. A spiral notepad slides across the passenger seat as I steer my truck left onto Laurens Road. The nervous energy of third grade girls playoff basketball has been replaced this morning with the nervous excitement of my first solo Not My Boys research assignment. I am on the search to unlock one of tax season's greatest mysteries...what do the dancing human billboards have on their music playlists? Yes, you read that right. I am en route to interview the people who stand in front of the tax service offices holding signs dressed in some form of costume.
I am almost certain this blog will lead to a spin-off book entitled, "Ways Writing a Blog Can Stress Your Marriage." I am also fairly certain that ranked high on that list will be when you tell your wife on the first Saturday in several months you do not have multiple church basketball games to attend, you need to head out for just a bit to interview people dressed up as the Statue of Liberty. But just as I am sure Woodward and Bernstein faced some resistance when reporting on matters of great national importance, I thought this story must be told.
As I make my way down Laurens Road toward town, I begin to realize this may be harder than I thought. I pass by both Liberty and M&M tax services and there is no sign of a dancing statue or M&M. Not only that, but I had no idea of the amount of waving flag signs, balloons, and air driven dancing noodle looking people that grace our roadways. Just when I'd think I was going to see someone of interest off in the distance, it would turn out to be a clearance flag waving in the wind. So after heading up 291 and Wade Hampton Blvd. without the first sign of a human billboard, I decided to head back home. Just when I had given up, there on the horizon was a person at the corner of Antrim Drive who had a sign. Could it be? Yes...Yes, a human billboard. As I got closer, I saw a lady in a red and blue M&M looking costume holding a sign that read "$5 Cuts." I quickly turned and parked in front of Half-Moon Outfitters.
This all seemed like a great idea until the moment I was about to step outside the truck with a notepad and pen and ask a complete stranger dressed in costume what she was listening to. But again, great "journalism" often can push you outside your comfort zone.
As I approach the corner, I see she is wearing what appears to be one of the first sports Walkman models. You know, the wireless ones with the radio and headphones all-in-one and the antenna coming out of one of the ears. I see that the battery cover is missing and the double A battery is exposed. I immediately think there is a 50% chance that thing even works and if it does work even less of a chance it could pick up a radio station, but I soldier forward. "Hi, my name is Brandt. I was just curious what you listen to while you work?" Yes, it was as awkward as you are thinking it was. A huge smile comes across her face and she states that she has several playlists. Playlists? How do you have a playlist on a 25-year-old Walkman, and about that time she pulls out of her costume pocket a Samsung Galaxy the size of a laptop. "I have them on Pandora," she states. I am not sure if the look of surprise on my face was greater then or when she next asked me what I do. Which I answered with as much confidence as a baby has trying to walk for the first time, "Umm, Umm, Umm, I'm a writer for a blog." After we got past that and the fact that I did not have a business card, Angeline began with great excitement sharing with me her different playlists. "I love me some 90s R&B radio, some Chris Brown, some Ginuwine, some Lyfe Jennings...Oh...Oh...any thing old school," as she points to Oldschool Nation radio. I am not sure why she was not listening to any of these on this day, she may save those for her other billboard gig.
On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, Angeline is representing "B-Unique Barber Academy" here on the corner of Antrim Dr. and Laurens Road, but on Monday, Wednesday and Friday she is dressed up as Uncle Sam up the road for one of the tax service offices. That job requires a little more effort as there is no sign to hold, just her dancing in the Uncle Sam costume.
Before I could stop smiling from what an awesome encounter I had with Angeline, before I could forget the pride that she had in doing a great job for the companies she represented, I saw a dancing Statue of Liberty on my left. I swing into the Fitzpatrick's parking lot. I notice that she is not listening to any music, but I decide to chat with her any way. Turns out Gloria has been dressing up as the Statue of Liberty since 2005 and when she is not doing that she cleans hotel rooms. She tells me she mainly listens to 107.3 Jamz and Christian music when she does bring her radio. I quickly begin to not care about what she listens to and become more intrigued by her sweet, gentle soul. She shared with me how good it makes her feel when people honk their horns or wave to her. The joy she has in doing her job could be easily seen in her smile as she posed for a picture.
The same could be said for Vera, the Statue of Liberty on Augusta Road. She was listening to R. Kelly when we chatted in a light drizzle. She stated she will not work in a heavy rain, but will work in the cold as the costume provides her all the warmth she needs.
I began the day curious as to what music powered the dancing pillars of liberty, but as Gloria slid her blue plastic sunglasses over her eyes and began playing the cardboard sign like a guitar, I realized they weren't powered by the music at all. They were powered by the sweet notes of life. So as I pulled back on to Laurens Road I gave Gloria two honks, not just because I knew it would make her feel good, but more so in appreciation for her reminding me no matter what I am doing to take joy and pride in it, as each moment on earth is a precious one.
Below is a playlist based on the most common songs found on Angeline's Pandora stations. Warning: Explicit Language