Saturday, March 24, 2012

Join the Red Cross

Popular illustrator Harrison Fisher (1877-1934) created this Gibson Girl/Nurse for a Red Cross print campaign in 1917. The original was scanned at the Library of Congress, where they include this full-frame version on their web site. Somehow the beat-up Kodak color-range cardboards against the matte black background (and the casual crookedness of the whole arrangement) create a graphic whole more mysterious and effective than the sum of the parts.

Today while doing errands at the bank and the post office and at Cliff's in the Castro (in the rain) I kept passing and re-passing various damp young people with big smiles huddled under awnings clutching clipboards and hoping to sign people up as member of (and donors to) the Red Cross. Clipboard-kids have proliferated over the last few years to such an extent both in the Inner Mission and in the Castro (friendly, youthful, affluent neighborhoods with lots of foot traffic) that they have become kind of invisible, like fire hydrants. Which means they must constantly reach for new extremes of chirpiness and eagerness just to attract anybody's attention.

The internet tells me they are chuggers (short for charity mugger). That terminology sounds unnecessarily nasty to me. It's not like they do it for fun, or like there are all kinds of better jobs available for the young. What I mostly felt was sorry for them (though not sorry enough to do what they wanted and stop). But as I went on my way it made me wonder if I had ever worked a job as horrible as theirs appeared to be (especially in the rain).

Only maybe that one time when I was a teenage busboy in a country-western supper club out in the middle of nowhere. I tripped about halfway through my first night and spilled a ten-gallon bucket full of miniature ice cubes all the way across the dance floor. It was like a piece of performance art, the coverage was so beautifully even and so extensive. But that job only lasted a week so I don't think it really counts.