Genghis had his horde, Cyrus his millions.
Yesterday morning upon arriving in the city, Penn Station was filled with the Hessians of corporate marketing: packs of temporary event staff in yellow Sierra Mist T-shirts, holding six-packs of Sierra Mist soda, red Sierra Mist ID badges slung around their necks. “Sierra Mist?” “Sierra Mist?” “Regular or diet?” “Free sample?” “Sierra Mist?”
I’ve learned from working with event production companies, temporary event staff are recruited from three pools: college students, actors, and retirees. Yellow T-shirt, bed head, bleary expression? College student. Yellow T-shirt, carnivorous expression? Actor. Yellow T-shirt, over 25? Retiree. They tend to gather into slighty apologetic clumps (wouldn’t you, in Penn station on a Thursday morning?) so walking for the exit is like passing through a series of prairie dog colonies. “Sierra Mist?” “Sierra Mist?” “Regular or diet?” [pause.] “Sierra Mist?”
Imagine a field of crickets, their chirps all overlapping: “Sierra (sierra) Mis-(Mist?) Si(Mist) erra (Regular or) Mist? (Diet?)”
It’s hard not to think of the yellow T-shirt-ed staff as grunt troops in a military exercise. The real military troops in Penn Station seemed pretty nonplused, anyhow. Every day, there’s about ten or twelve troops in camo scattered around the station — talking to the pretty girls, talking on their cellphones, talking to each other on non-issue Motarola walkie-talkies clipped to their uniform, or just watching the crowd. This morning, they were all clumped around the information desk looking glum, a small pyramid of Sierra Mist (regular and diet) gathered on the counter. I’m not sure, thinking about it, why the army looked so unhappy. The Sierra Mist Army gets to go home in the afternoon to rumpled dorm rooms and efficiency apartments?
The clumps of college students and actors had petered out once I reached the Seventh avenue escalators, but there was one grizzled retiree holding the line by the stairs. This guy, clearly, was a veteran and a pro, a one-man army with his own ideas about how to move the product: “Si-erra-MIST! SI-erra-MIST! HOT! FRESH! DELICIOUS! REG-yoo-lar and DIET! C’mon and get your Si-erra MIST HERE!”