There’s a concert inside Paul Cooper’s head.
The 43-year-old sways from side to side as classic rock pours into his ear buds. He dresses the part of a rocker: A peace sign necklace, long hair, a bandanna and shades.
Cooper does this all from a sidewalk along busy Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in New Tampa. He sticks out to motorists, and that’s exactly the point.
Cooper is a “sign spinner,” holding a sign that tries to lure drivers to MIT Computers where “we fix PCs & Macs & Phones.” No one can question the man’s work ethic. He works six days a week, commuting one hour and 15 minutes each way, by bike, from his home near Nebraska and Linebaugh avenues. For all that moving and shaking, Cooper earns $8 an hour.
“It’s a good job other than the heat,” Cooper said.
Fortunately for Cooper, his livelihood is not being threatened by city officials, as it is across the bridge. In St. Petersburg, officials are mulling over an ordinance that would ban these human billboards from doing anything but standing still, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
City officials say these workers are essentially too effective — to the point that they are distracting to drivers. But opponents of the ban disagree there is a public safety issue. They say if dancing — or spinning or twirling or any other kind of movement — is banned, many sign wavers would lose their jobs because staying stationary does not boost business.
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"I heard about that," Cooper said of the proposed ban. "I don't think it is fair."
No such ban is being proposed for the New Tampa area.
“Any work is good,” Cooper said of the job. Motorists usually get a kick out of his dancing.
“Girls wave and holler,” he said. “Mostly you get a beep but you (also) get the vulgar ones.”
Thankfully, he said, the latter is in the minority.
What do you think about St. Pete's idea to ban sign spinners? Should Tampa consider a similar ban? Let us know in the comments section.