Humorous Signs Make The Day Better For NYC Subway Conductors
Yosef Lerner wanted conductors to know they are seen as human
The rule requires that at each stop the conductor point out the window at a zebra-striped band. It's a way to ensure they are alert. (New Yorkers, go look for it the next time you're in a subway station.)
Creative director Yosef Lerner became intrigued by the rule and decided to do something for the subway men and women. He created this video to tell the story of "The New York Subway Signs Experiment."
The video drew nearly 1 million views in the first four days of its posting on YouTube and multiple messages of thanks from MTA employees. Watch, enjoy, then read the AOL Jobs interview below with Lerner about how the project came to be.
How did you get the idea to do this and where did you learn about the subway rule?
I learned about the point and call rule on Reddit, my favorite/least favorite website. Then my partner Rose Sacktor and I started seeing it in person, at every station. I tried to think of an interesting way to put myself between the pointing and the board. The first thing that came to mind was writing, "You are dead sexy." It made me laugh. That's when I know I have a good idea. After that I wrote 30 more and we picked our favorites.
What types of things do you write about?
Most of my work is for Distractify, the company I creative direct for. We feature content that only Internet addicts will understand. I spend about 10 hours a day behind some form of illuminated screen. I have seen literally everything on the Internet. Our site is for freaks like me. People who think they have seen it all.
Apart from that, I enjoy writing about the perils of Internet life. Growing up in front of a computer fundamentally rewires your brain. The way that my 25-year-old self buys shoes or goes on dates is very different from someone who's 35. I find that fascinating. I want to explore that in every way. It makes perfect sense that the inspiration for this project was something I read online, even though I ride the subway everyday.
How did you recruit the people to be the sign holders?
The two sign holders were my partner Rose and me. She's actually the only one holding signs in the video. I tried a few times, and people smiled, but she has a prettier face (and I totally lift), so she got better reactions.
How many subway stations did you go to?
We went to eight different stations, and held signs for about 10 hours.
What did people do in the subway watching you?
On the platforms people were always curious what we were doing. They'd ask and we'd explain. They'd assume we were selling something or had some ulterior motive. We didn't. That's what makes it awesome.
How many people in all were involved?
Just me and Rose. Rose was my partner in advertising before I hopped industries. I'm a writer and she's an art director. We're still friends and thought this would be a fun thing to do. We clearly have a different view of "fun" than most people.
Who did the movie?
I shot and edited the video. It took about two weeks, with many late nights in front of Adobe Premiere.
What inspired you to do it?
When I noticed the point and call in person, it made me laugh. These are human beings with complex emotions and interpersonal relationships, and here they are acting like robots.
I see that as an opportunity to snap someone out of it. To let them know that we notice them and that we see them as human beings.
I imagine all the conductors going home and telling their families that someone stood there, surrounded by hundreds of people, and held a sign just for them. I would hope that anyone who hears that story feels like making someone's day.
I'm so grateful that we have the Internet to share these experiences. My only goal was to inspire people to do something selfless. It seems like everyone sharing the video feels the same way.
Are you surprised at the reaction the video has received?
I'm amazed at the response. I posted the video hoping to make a few friends smile. Now that it's gone viral, I'm trying to stay humble. I caught myself paying extra for the guac on my burrito today. I thought, "Who am I anymore?" Fame is dangerous like that.
Laurie Petersen edits AOL Jobs and is a long-time veteran of the working world. Follow her @lauriepete