Published September 20th, 2002
of the indispensable assets for any aspiring politician is the ability to think
outside the box. So, when at a recent debate my Primary opponent described
himself as thinking outside the box I was reduced to stammering, "Well,
I've never been accused of NOT thinking outside the box." It made me
sound quite lame, especially since my opponent had already told the audience how
winded I was after climbing up a couple flights of stairs.
The problem of thinking outside the box is that sometimes it's a colossal waste
of time. For instance, I had an out of the box brainstorm in June. I decided to
jump-start my legislative campaign with the help of Duluth's biggest summer
event, Grandma's Marathon. I was going to reach thousands of runners and
spectators with my own Burma Shave signs.
Now younger readers will draw a blank at the mention of Burma Shave. This
shaving cream manufacturer got its start during the new age of automobiles. They
began a one-of-a-kind advertising scheme. They posted poems in groups of six
signs all along America's new highways. Each verse concluded with the
company's product - "Burma Shave."
* Shaving brushes--You'll soon see 'em--Way down
east--In some Museum--Burma-Shave
* Within this vale of toil and sin--Your head grows
bald--But not your chin --Burma Shave
* Pity all the mighty Caesars--They pulled each whisker
Over time some of the verses ended up as public service announcements:
* Road was slippery--Curve was sharp--White robe, halo,
wings and harp--Burma-Shave
Burma Shave stopped putting up new signs in 1963 done in by electric shavers. So
it was up to me to take on Burma Shave's mantle except that I would end my
verses with Givemhellharry.org.
* 26 miles--Nuthin to it--With a runner's high--You can
* Running at Grandma's--Is a thrill--Until you
reach--Lemon Drop Hill---Givemhellharry.org
At 4 AM I got up and planted a dozen poems along Grandma's route. It would just
be a matter of time before my website was the busiest on the planet.
I'm sorry to report that my brainchild was stillborn. All those grateful
marathoners egged on through the tough stretches of the race by my doggerel just
drove home. There was nary a blip on my web counter. Thinking outside the box
had done little to advance my candidacy.
When I retrieved my signs the following day, one poem, "Running at
Grandma's--takes the cake--It's always colder--By the lake," was missing
its last two stanzas. Someone had taken them as a souvenir. I was mostly amused
but still there was a principle involved. The signs were mine and they had been
- well - stolen.
Two months later I was out performing an in the box campaign chore, lit
dropping. 9,500 flyers in ten days! Not bad for a winded old geezer. It was a
gorgeous breezy day and I was accompanied by zillions of dragon flies. Every
time I brushed up against a tree dozens of them leapt into the air sounding like
While placing a flyer in one home's screen door I saw a small sign in the
hallway which read, "It's always colder." On the other side of the
hall stood another sign which read, "by the lake." Oh. This was so
A few days before the primary, I began putting up my own lawn signs. I took out
my list of yards and added one more address from the house with my purloined
Burma Shave signs. I composed a short poem:
* Running at Grandma's - takes the cake - It's always
colder by the Lake.
Looked for my signs - but they were gone - so here's a
new one - for your lawn.
The two you took - are yours to keep - this quid pro
quo - will let you sleep.
(In good conscience) Givemhellharry.org
I found the house newly adorned with the lawn signs of Democrats! Not a
propitious, if I can use the word, "sign." I parked close for a quick
getaway, slipped the poem in the screen door and put up my Republican
It was a week before I passed by the house again. At first glance I could only
see the DFL signs but on closer inspection I saw my sign flattened to the
ground. I shrugged. The homeowners had left my sign in the yard but felt no
responsibility to prop it back up after it had fallen. So much for thinking
outside the box.
But the next day when I passed the house again I found my sign standing tall and
proud amidst those Democrat signs. I could have cheered. Mama always told me
that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. She was obviously thinking
outside the box.
The Duluth Chamber of Commerce just released a poll of Chamber members. One
of the issues they asked about referred to the controversial anti-Greg Gilbert
ads. According to the results 50% of chamber members still favor having the
Chamber PAC run ads for pro-business candidates compared to 35% who oppose such
ads. More telling was a sister question which asked how many Chamber members
opposed ads attacking candidates. Attack ads were opposed by 75% of the
respondents compared to 11% who supported attack ads. Look for a kinder gentler
Chamber in future elections.
Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com