A human directional is a person whose job is to stand outside, near a busy road or highway
with a very large sign advertising something or other, usually new housing tracts. Over the past ten years, this quirky job has became an industry in California
, with several large companies all competing for territory.
Human directionals do many things to get the attention of the people in the cars passing by. They throw their arrow-shaped signs in the air, dress up as clowns, do gymnastics, and wave more than a beauty queen in a parade. Since this sort of work isn't exactly glamorous, not many people are willing to do it. To encourage more people to do so, the companies pay their human directionals very well. Most earn anywhere from $8 an hour to $20 an hour. I know it seems like a lot of money for just standing around, but let me assure you, it's not easy work.
I actually worked as a human directional for two years. Two years of standing outside in the Mojave heat, with sand and dust blowing at me constantly in the desert wind. The heat here in the summer is outrageous. The cold in the winter is bone-chilling. The most challenging aspect of the job is the sheer boredom. I was so bored at times that I felt my brain was melting. My portable CD-player and ice chest were my only salvation. I stood outside every weekend for five hours, taking a five minute break once each hour. I learned not drink anything six hours before I had to be there, because the nearest bathroom was usually a mile away. It was definitely not fun.
I only had to dress up as a clown for one weekend, and it was so horrible that I almost quit. I had to get to the site twenty minutes early to put my costume and make-up on. Putting grease makeup on one's own face is not an easy thing, especially with only a tiny pocket-mirror to aid you. I looked like one of those scary Stephen King clowns. I had my ride drive me out to the day's location, right by our local mall, which is where every single teenager and twenty-something within thirty miles goes on weekends. There's something about wearing a costume that makes people forget that you're a person and not just some caricature. People drove by and taunted me, threw things at me, and "gestured" at me. I was fairly used to this, but the combination of heat, bugs sticking in my face-paint (and me not being able to pick them out because it would mess up my already-messed up make-up), and the humiliation of wearing a pink and blue jumpsuit with a rainbow wig made those some of the longest five hours of my life.
When you stand in one place for five hours with nothing to do but look around and listen to music, you do a lot of thinking and see a lot of things. Some really strange stuff happened to me while I was out there. Most people who pulled up alongside me wanted to know how much money I was making. Understandable, if not slightly annoying. Other people wanted directions, which I was happy to dispense even though I could get lost in a wide open pasture. Then there were the weird people. I had one woman ask me for directions to Disneyland:
"Hi, we're from Kentucky... what street is Disneyland on?" asked the woman.
"Disneyland? Disneyland is over 100 miles from here!", I said.
"Oh. Well, what street is it on?"
By now you're probably asking yourself: "Why in the name of all that is good and holy did you subject yourself to such a job?!" Simple. Money. It worked for me back then. I was still in high-school, and it gave me money to do stupid teenager things. I did it for my first year in college as well, only this time to pay for books.
This may be the foggy cottony pillow of memory speaking, but in general it wasn't all that bad. It gave me plenty of time to think, to be quiet, to just be. Would I do it again? Lord no.