"I'm really looking for a girlfriend. This is not a joke..." reads a poster at 15th Street and Seventh Avenue NYC.
It only takes a little digging to find out that the flyer man is a guy called Dan Perino, and this looking for a girlfriend poster has kinda become his thing. As communications become more digital, physical messages like this one totally astonish people. Not only has Dan Perino reportedly received plenty of interest, he's become a kinda new age-celebrity. Cars honk at him a he walks through the streets. People shout out "you're my hero" from wound down windows. He has launched his own collection of T-shirts depicting a chest-size picture of the very same "looking for a girlfriend" flyer in all its glory. What may initially seem sad or desperate has - for some - become inspiring.
Only recently in the UK graduate Alfred Ajani held up a sign in waterloo station advertising his 2:1 degree in Marketing to passers by. He received a string of job offers, worldwide media attention, and eventually returned to the same spot with a "now I'm hiring" sign.
When we are searching for others - missing loved ones, lost dogs, runaway teenagers - we want the world to know about it. The whole street, the whole police department, the whole of the internet - everyone. But when we're searching for something for ourselves, we do it in secret. We silently scroll through dating websites without mentioning it to our work friends the next day. We email endless CVs before walking to doll queues praying that nobody we know will see us. We hide it all with a mix of shame and pride.
What Dan and Alfred did is original but it doesn't make it any less sad. Like many of us, Dan Perino is a product of life in the age of loneliness and Alfred Ajani a symbol of the graduate without a future. People loved what Dan and Alfred did because they connected with it. They didn't see a dating profile or an electronic CV - they saw a real person, with real dreams and a string of real disappointments that led to their actions. What Dan and Alfred did is a last resort - it's like telling your secret to the whole world.
It's funny how Dan Perino is known as the 'guy who's looking for a girlfriend' and Alfred Ajani is known as 'the guy looking for a job' when really, there are loads of those guys. Those guys are everywhere. They post us letters, and sit next to us on the bus and walk by us in the street. We just don't know about those guys.