Feb 13, 2009

Tough Times, Tough People

I have passed Rhunai Rice many dozens of times in the past few months at his job on the corner of Secor and Sylvania in West Toledo. He is hard to miss, wearing as he does a turquoise Statue of Liberty costume and holding a sign promoting Liberty Tax Service.

What is especially noticeable, though, is the enthusiasm Rice displays, even in the worst weather.

"I consider myself to be a positive person by nature," Rice told me this afternoon. "Negative people bring you down, and in times like these it is even more important to surround yourself with people who are trying to achieve something positive."

Rice said that - while he would prefer more dignified work - he is grateful that he can at least find part-time employment in the tough economy.

"These folks [Liberty Tax Service] are great to work for, and the people who drive by keep me motivated with honks and cheers," he said. "But just because the economy is down doesn't mean I should give up."

Prior to working at what he called "street-level marketing," Rice worked in business management, most recently as an auditor.

"Look: I have a 5-year-old grandson I am raising, so there isn't much choice about working or not working," he said of his decision to accept his current costumed outdoor job. "It's not like the bills are going to disappear."

We had an interesting conversation about self-motivation in troubled times.

"The easiest thing in the world to do is to quit - any kind of fool can just give up," he said. "But getting up every day and pushing yourself to keep trying? That's what separates winners from losers, and it's what keeps me going when I might otherwise start thinking negative thoughts."

Of course, if your company is in need of a hardworking, enthusiastic, and self-motivated person like Rhunai Rice, be sure to stop by Secor and Sylvania some afternoon. Don't let the wacky costume mislead you: Mr. Rice is no fool, and he seems to have the kind of unsinkable spirit associated with people who always come out winners.


Anonymous said...

What a touching story, mikey!

microdot said...

It isn't easy being poor but so many of the poor have so much more dignity.
Arrogance and Dignity, two opposite poles of the compass.

(this is the most alarming verification code I have ever seen:

historymike said...

Thanks, Anonymous.

historymike said...

Agreed, microdot, that dignity and self-respect are important qualities. Rhunai Rice also has the ability to avoid taking himself too seriously: how many of us would be able to wear a Statue of Liberty costume, dance in public, and promote a tax service?

I could and would do it, but many people would be mortally embarassed by such "demeaning" work. Of course, I stand in front of people and act goofy for a living as a history instructor, so clowning around is second nature to me.


In my old business, we used to use roadside costumed employees to improve awareness. We tried a gorilla suit, a Roman gladiator, and a Neptune costume.

We also tried a bikini-clad female employee, but we got complaints from customers and even the cops. They were concerned (probably with merit) that the attractive 18-year-old who enthusiatically pranced on Alexis Road might be a traffic hazard.

craig said...

I love seeing that guy, also. He's been out there smiling through the worst winter we've had in 30 years!

I told my daughter just this past Saturday that any company would love to have a guy like him on their payroll.

Thanks for stopping and talking to him!

Anonymous said...

I have a great view of "Liberty Man" from our store and have wondered "Who is this crazy person!?" Would love to know if he is pulling in the clients. There has to be a same type of job full time for him somewhere.
Thanks for posting this.


Ben said...

There is one of those places around my house....and they also had someone dressed up the same. I thought it was unique to the location by me until now.