Spotted: The human billboard

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Is there any sadder sight than the broke-ass bastard who straps a sandwich board over his chest and stands on a street corner in exchange for minimum wage? The front of the board reports that a hot dog wholesaler has a gross of tube steaks that are running up aganst their expiration date; the back says that the price is right. The look on the face of the man wearing the wooden sign says: Soon, I'm going to be spending my newfound cash on liquor that comes out of a plastic bottle.


Americans have long pimped themselves out to sportingwear manufacturers, musicians, and athletes--advertising their logos, names, and numbers on our chests. Now, it appears the rest of corporate America is getting in on the act.

That's what I thought while looking around a packed 747 on Monday morning, flying out of Memphis to MSP. Everywhere there were windbreakers and billed caps, suitcase tags and laminated badge straps that identified a person as belonging to a Fortune 500 company. We are emissaries of their might; we wear their uniform.

The man in seat B of row 32 donned a matching cap and t-shirt for Novar, which boasted of the company's relationship to Wal-Mart. Apparently the sandwich boards are too big to fit through the metal detector. Does Novar pay a wardrobe inspector, I wondered, to see to it that its employees are donning the company shirt on company time?

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On one hand, I'll admit that I'd never heard of Novar--a newly acquired subsidiary of Honeywell. Having been inspired to look the company up on a website called Google--the T-shirt worked!--I now have learned that "Novar Retail has proven itself an industry leader in delivering advanced automated building control solutions to meet each customer's specific needs."

And so if I ever find myself in possession of a big-box retail superstore, I'll know who to call to set the thermostat.

To the extent that he was sitting behind me, I can provide no word on whether Novar's vassal availed himself of the airline minibar.

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