In wintertime, the United States Postal Service and the Ohio Department of Transportation take a motto very seriously — “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
So do the Liberty Tax street canvassers.
As the cold weather begins to warm, and just as sure as the turning of the earth, we see the first signs of spring: people wearing shorts, and a young man, hair flowing in the cold breeze, riding down South South Street at full throttle on his motorcycle.
There is another indication of early spring. The man or woman standing at the intersection of Main and South, dressed in a sea green Statute of Liberty costume. With sign in hand, they remind us tax season has arrived and April 15 is not far behind.
We often slow down as they wave, dance, sometimes prance, and jive as they move the big boom box from one shoulder to another.
I have often wondered about the people who wear the costumes. How do they stay warm when the temperatures plunge to zero and the freezing winds are blowing? They appear to be a hardy group.
I would honk and they waved back. Or some days the opposite was true. They waved and I, like the lonely clown walking on the dirt road in the country in Steve Martin’s Cruel Shoes, would honk back.
“My baptized name is David, but I go by ‘Big Country’,” the tall, friendly man in the Statue of Liberty costume told me last Friday morning as he stood under the overhang of the Liberty Tax office on Main Street across from the north entrance of the courthouse.
“Sometimes it is hard to stay warm. It gets cold in Wilmington, you know, and some mornings are colder than others. I put on about ten pounds of wool, and just double up on my underwear,” he joked. “On a day like today, when it is wet, foggy, and the drizzle drenches my toboggan, I try to hang under the store covering. My beard and mustache help keep me warm.”
David was wearing a black toboggan pulled snugly against the seven rays on his sea green crown, which is an anatomically correct version of the original Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island in New York.
According to David, “This job isn’t for everyone. I’m not Dale Carnegie, but it helps if you like people,” he said. “It’s the interaction with people that keeps me coming back to work every day.”
Many of the workers seem happy. David said, “The job requires joyful, genuinely cheerful people, like teenagers with a new website, or Justin Timberlake cashing his Super Bowl check.”
David said he has a strong work ethic. “It isn’t easy to stand on your feet for eight hours every day, waving at cars as they go by,” he said. “Hey, dog!” David yells at a friend in a red Honda who had blown his horn as he sped by.
Liberty Tax is a good employer according to David. “I have worked for them for two years and they always treat me well,” David said, as he adjusted the large crown that had shifted in the wind.
“I won’t take a handout. I want to work for my money,” he said proudly. “I show up every day, on time, and do my job,” he continued.
David said he was born and raised in Wilmington, and attended Wilmington High School, graduating in 1996. He was on the wrestling team and loved art in school.
“The downtown location is excellent. We have some interesting experiences on the street,” David said. “One day it was hot and a carload of people kept circling the block. They blew their horn and said they would give me a dollar every time I would take off a piece of my costume. They must have circled twenty times, but I ran out of things to take off, at least to remain socially acceptable. It was a good thing, too, because someone called the police and they drove by and shook their heads at me.”
On Valentine’s Day a couple stopped and gave David a box of Esther Price candy, which touched his heart. “People are very nice to me, and it’s a great way to network,” David said. “I have been offered a couple of jobs, but I am loyal and didn’t want to leave. I have a degree in graphic design and want to open a graphic design company someday, but now is not the time. I am happy doing what I am doing.”
“Does anything exciting happen?” I asked.
“Yes. Last week on Valentine’s Day, the driver of the horse and buggy stopped along the street, jumped down from the buggy, and ran in and had his taxes done,” he replied.
“Don’t forget to pay your taxes!” David yelled, as I got in my car to leave.
I nodded, smiled, and took a second to honk as I slowly pulled away.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County Commissioner.