I saw two of them in today, in different towns: cold-looking people costumed as the State of Liberty, waving improbably from in front of a strip mall tax preparation office and holding a sign that read LIBERTY TAX SERVICE. The first one danced at her station -- to stay warm in the twenty-degree weather, I think. The second did not dance, but waved and smiled gamely. LIBERTY TAX SERVICE -- I'd never heard of it. I went to the website: there was another young lady costumed as the statue. She looked much more comfortable than either of her colleagues, so she must have been indoors.
An interesting marketing plan, that, though it's hard to imagine it's being very effective. Does watching the Statue of Liberty dancing outside in the middle of winter make you want to get your taxes done? Me, neither.
But then, people who aren't in advertising often have strange ideas about what will resonate. Online I regularly encounter bizarre ads promoting for-profit schools: a woman screaming, an elderly man laughing ( over and over again, in strange, jerky motion), a pair of silhouettes in a frantic dance that repeats and repeats -- just what any of these things has to do with going to school is anybody's guess. Mortgage refinancing, special diet supplements promising spectacular weight loss by means of a secret "weird old trick." Weird, all right, though perhaps not in the way the advertiser meant --what's weird is that anybody would click on it. But apparently people do, a billion dollars' worth of people, says the reporter who is covering the Federal Trade Commission's investigation of these and other scams.
Something about these ads makes me sad. What is it? It makes no sense; they're ridiculous. They ought to be laughable. But the fact that there are people gullible enough to plunk down any of their hard-earned money on such schemes fills me with melancholy. That naive, that easily taken in? That desperate, maybe, ready to try anything? Will the victims of these come-ons ever catch up, ever become able to navigate this cynical world, starting from so far behind?
Or maybe it's just me. I should probably get one of those light boxes and sit in front of it for an hour a day. Then maybe the world's hopelessness will stop nibbling at my frayed edges.
February is like that: dark, cold, discouraged, full of flu. I suppose that's why a silly holiday dedicated to love arrives in the middle of it. Love, whether for a beau, a teacher, a mother or father, a secret admirer -- love makes bearable the bleak of winter.