Prom Season. And the day the music died.
Because I’ve lived in so many places, I have friends all over the country. And it seems like lately they’re all saying the same thing. It’s fucking hot.
If it were just a few weeks ago, I’d agree with them. But here in Michigan, there’s already a tiny touch of fall in the air.
I like to go outside really super early in the morning and take a few breaths. It’s still dark out. Really dark. Insanely dark. Whoever said it’s darkest before the dawn wasn’t kidding. The sky is ink. It feels more night than morning. There’s a chill in the air that wasn’t there just a few weeks ago. A friendly reminder that the party is almost over.
Which is fine by me. Summer is my least favorite season. Grow up in Houston, TX and you’ll get yourself enough summer to last a lifetime.
When I was about 16, my uncle bought a tuxedo store. My cousins and I all went to work for him. We’d measure people for their tuxes, make minor alterations when they picked them up and then sort through the mess when everything got returned the next day.
It was a good gig but you had to wear a suit to work. The summers in Houston are unbearable. I drove a 1982 Oldsmobile Cutlas Supreme with a diesel engine in it. That car was a gigantic piece of shit. Not only did it let out a thick cloud of black smoke every time I started it up but the damn thing didn’t have a working air conditioner. Do you know what it’s like to drive around Houston in the summer in a car with no air conditioning wearing a suit? I do. It’s fucking miserable. But to this day, I can spot a 42 regular from across the room. I don’t even need to measure.
Prom season was when things got really busy. The pay was pretty lousy but you got a nice commission on anything you managed to talk them into getting besides just the basic tux. Shoes. Top hats. Canes. Gloves. Bow ties. Cummerbunds. Cuffs and links. Socks. That’s where you made your money.
But the real payday came when the kids would drop off their tuxes the next morning. There was an unwritten, finders-keepers policy when it came to what was stashed and forgotten in the various pockets.
Side pockets on the pants were great for finding forgotten dollar bills. Tips never given. Back pockets were notorious for condoms. Evidence of wishful thinking. And the inside pocket of the jacket is where you always found the left-over drugs. A fella could have himself a real good time after a day of working returns at a tux shop during prom season.
Around 5:30 a.m. I start to see the garbage trucks. I’m amazed by garbagemen. I could call them garbage collectors but that makes it sound like a hobby. Sanitation workers is another good option but feels a bit sterile for the dirty job these guys do.
Regardless of what you call them, I think they’re superheroes. Seriously. Whoever came up with this job was fucking nuts.
We’re going to get a bunch of really big trucks. We’ll drive them to every single house, apartment building and business in the entire country once a week. And we’ll put a couple of handles on the back so that the guys can hang on as they go from house to house and pick up each and every person’s trash.
I would have laughed that guy out of the room. But someone gave it the green-light and when you stop and actually think about it, it’s totally fucking amazing.
The dudes who are working that job must be bionic or something because I get worn out just dragging my shit to the curb. These guys physically pick up each can with their bare fucking hands and dump it all into the back of the truck. Over and over again. House after house.
How in the hell do they do it? And when do these guys pee? If I couldn’t pee whenever I wanted to pee, I think I’d break something inside of where I go pee. These men are supernatural.
I feel the same way about the mail. For 55¢ someone wearing a ridiculous outfit and driving a funny car will come to your house—no matter where you live—pick up your letter—and then hand deliver it to anyone you want, anywhere in the country. That is a hell of a good deal.
I think back to working in that tuxedo shop. It was a pretty easy job. You put two fingers against the neck and measure the collar. With the customer’s hands by their side, you measure from the middle of the neck down to just below the wrist. The waist is easy because the pants are adjustable by three inches. Then you take a knee by the customer’s side and measure the out-seam. ALWAYS the out-seam. Right down the side of the leg. In-seams are a different ball game. We didn’t do those. If the guy was tall, you called it a long. If he wasn’t tall, you marked it a regular. And if the dude was short, then that’s exactly what he got.
Advertising is a harder job than working at a tuxedo store. But I don’t think it’s as hard as being a garbage man. And I don’t think any of our ideas are as audacious as hanging on to the back of a truck that is headed to each and every house in America. Nor do I think any business out there offers the ridiculous value of the post office. 55¢. Hand delivered anywhere you want. Are you kidding me?
We like to think that we come up with big, bold ideas in advertising. Stuff that can change opinions, behavior or even the world. In 2015, Crispin won the Titanium Grand Prix at Cannes for Dominoes. The Titanium Grand Prix is meant to honor breakthrough ideas that point to a new direction for the industry and it is considered the most prestigious prize in all of advertising to win. They got it for creating a fucking pizza emoji. For me, that was the day the music died. And it’s the day I stopped caring about Cannes.
Humans are capable of such amazing feats. We’ve put people on the moon. Cured diseases. And invented punk rock.
Yet here we are. Advertising. We even have the balls to call ourselves creatives. And our high water marks are a commercial made in 1984 and a pizza emoji.
It’s a good thing tomorrow is trash day. I need some inspiration.