Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
Published September 20th, 2002

Out of the Box

One 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 out--With tweezers--Burma-Shave

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 do it--Givemhellharry.org
     * 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 rustling cellophane.

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 sweet!

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 sign.

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