A message to brighten a day
August 16, 2013 6:47 AM   Subscribe

My windows look out onto a train platform where thousands of tired, stressed, or lonely people stand and wait every day in New York. On other platforms I've seen people put signs up in their windows as messages for the folks waiting for a train. What message could I put up in my window to make people smile or make their days just a little bit better?
posted by gregoryg to Society & Culture (35 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a cat? Build a little shelf and put his food up there to induce him to sit there. There are few things that brighten my day more than seeing a cat in a window.
posted by something something at 6:49 AM on August 16, 2013 [34 favorites]

"If you lived here you would be home by now."
posted by Rob Rockets at 6:52 AM on August 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

May the Force be with you

Love one another

Smile, it could be Monday

This is a random act of kindness
posted by Jacen at 7:02 AM on August 16, 2013

You could get a blackboard or whiteboard and start a local meme. For example draw a simple cat (or maybe pick something you have a lot of locally (pigeons?)) and have it saying a funny quote and change it up everyday. Another idea, if you are in a place with a lot of hipster vibe (for whatever definition of "hipster" you like), is to draw a train with a big handlebar mustache and a thought bubble coming from it, then change it's "thought" to something funny everyday.

No matter what you decide, change it up once in a while so people keep checking in and possibly looking forward to what the message might be that day.
posted by mikepop at 7:02 AM on August 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

"Your train will be coming in soon. Literally and, I hope, metaphorically."

"Come on ride that train. Yeah, ride it. Woo woo. --Quad City DJs"
posted by Rock Steady at 7:03 AM on August 16, 2013 [11 favorites]

Here's an article about someone who had a similar idea to yours.
posted by mikepop at 7:04 AM on August 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

on mikepop's suggestion, a friend of mine told me once about how, while growing up in the suburbs of Florida, her father had a collection of pink flamingos and made a point of rearranging the flamingos every morning. Sometimes they'd be all clustered together with one left out. Or they'd be arrayed in a football formation. Or they'd all have leis and coconut bras.

One year, near graduation time, their house was flooded with thank you notes from local high school kids who said that they'd be riding the bus every day for four years and seeing what was new at "The Flamingo House" was a highlight of that daily commute

So, in that vein, maybe some kind of dialogue between two stick figures? Like a weekly one-panel web comic?
posted by bl1nk at 7:06 AM on August 16, 2013 [36 favorites]

"Here and now, we are alive." - T. Pratchett
posted by Etrigan at 7:08 AM on August 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

If you go with somethingsomething's cat idea, maybe add some sort of cat toy on a string hanging from the top of the window?

I really like bl1nk's story about the flamingos; maybe something like that (flamingos, plastic geese, stuffed teddy bears, whatever) in holiday/seasonal scenes.
posted by easily confused at 7:18 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tuesdays: mike mike mike mike mike guess what day it is
Wednesdays: HUMP DAY!!

Seconding a white board that you can change at whim.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:23 AM on August 16, 2013

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

(Assuming your window is close / large enough to fit all that in and still be legible.)
posted by ZipRibbons at 7:23 AM on August 16, 2013

This recent AskMe about someone looking for positive messages to put on signs might also inspire you.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:26 AM on August 16, 2013

What time is it?

posted by functionequalsform at 7:32 AM on August 16, 2013

Something like this caught my eye the other day and it simply said, "Everything is going to be ok" and it made me smile.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:34 AM on August 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

No matter what you decide, change it up once in a while so people keep checking in and possibly looking forward to what the message might be that day.

I like the whiteboard idea. There are endless things you can write. Poem snippets, jokes, song lyrics, quotations. You could change it every day, if your so ambitious, and never run out of things to write.

They don't all have to be "Have a nice day" messages. Abstract snippets, knock-knock jokes, word definitions; anything to get people out of their routine thoughts.

BrainyQuote is a good place to find quotes.

There are countless song lyric and joke sites, of course.
posted by The Deej at 7:36 AM on August 16, 2013

I love the flamingo idea!

(I personally would stay away from anything imperative like "smile" or "relax you have plenty of time"... anything that makes demands, or that could be inaccurate, you know? But something cute and thoughtfully arranged, like flamingos in costumes or stuffed animal dioramas? Gold.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:43 AM on August 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

"Everyone says hi."
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:00 AM on August 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree that the demanding ones can be a bit too much, but changing it to a suggestion might work, eg. "why not bake a cake and share it with your neighbour!"

I've cited the above because one of the first questions I asked here was little things I could do to put more kindness out in the world. I did bake a cake, and take half round to my elderly neighbours. It was ace and they were adorable.
posted by greenish at 8:05 AM on August 16, 2013

What a nice thought! Personally, I'd probably go in the direction of really quick jokes, because that's the sort of thing i'd enjoy seeing, myself.

Of course, it may be tough to google "short jokes" without having to wade through lots of jokes about people of short stature. Or "brief jokes" without having to sift through jokes about underwear.

"Quick puns" gets some results.
"Short one-liners" isn't too bad, either.

Maybe some "Roses are red, violets are blue" type parodies, à la Henry Gibson?

More off-the-wall: Pick a name at random out of the phone book or from Wikipedia and make a bizarre, silly rhyme out of it with the help of rhymezone.com.
Jan Marini
Stole a zucchini
From Princess Eugenie

It'll make some people giggle and others say WTF, and it'll become a daily routine for people to look for the next one.

Write, "Hi, [Different Common First Name Every Day]! Have a great day! Love, [Different Other Common First Name Every Day]" Every once in a while, mix it up with a weird or famous name, or unusual message like "The dog got a job!" or "You're pregnant!"
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:10 AM on August 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

I also think compliments might be nice - on a rotating basis.

- You look nice today.
- Nice hat.
- Great shoes.
- I admire your dedication to sparkle motion.
- Swell flair.

I somehow like the idea of compliments as both being potentially relevant to the person reading the sign and as a point of intrigue as to whether or not the compliments are intended for a specific person.
posted by countrymod at 8:11 AM on August 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Great suggestions so far! I'll definitely consider all of these things everybody is bringing up, but greenish's suggestion is definitely closest in spirit to what I was thinking - putting little kindnesses out into the world. I can see how that would also be accomplished by the flamingos, though!
posted by gregoryg at 8:12 AM on August 16, 2013

I live near the Chevron gas station in Wallingford Seattle (yelp) whose readerboard has a different message every day. It's ranged from cheesy puns and "Dad jokes" through to reassuring quotes and compliments. It's just nice to be reminded that there are people who are individuals there and that there's something for me to look at that isn't an ad, that'll be something new. It's enough sometimes to snap me out of my funk: "Why did that dumb pun bug me so much? I need to eat breakfast, I'm in such a mood!" So whatever it is, definitely change it up sometimes, if not daily.
posted by Mizu at 8:21 AM on August 16, 2013

Scrolling LED text display box*, offering up something like one of the Twitter feeds with unusual facts to entertain people and give them something to talk about with their fellow commuters? Maybe with the odd PSA thrown in, information about local suicide/domestic abuse/hotlines, food banks, etc.

In my wee village we have a house with a mannequin in a window. The mannequin changes clothes with the seasons and holidays. It's weird and great and does a lot to define the area.

* these can be bought cheaply nowadays
posted by kmennie at 8:22 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would be tempted to start a short story with new snippets every day.

Day 1: "Sarah looked out her window."

Day 2: "A line of commuters drifted by."

Day 3: "She wondered if they ever looked up."


This would probably require more time and planning than you would like to invest. But if I were a commuter, I'd start watching every day for the newest installment.

You could also take an idea from Twitter and slowly share an entire novel, Shakespeare play or other work in snippets if you didn't want to write your own. Or short poems. Or long poems over several days.
posted by emjaybee at 8:29 AM on August 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

How about old slogans?

Reach out and touch someone
Where's the beef?
Good to the last drop
Behold the power of cheese
Got milk?
Calgon, take me away!

All of these make me smile remembering where I was when I knew them.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 8:29 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Why are you assuming they are tired, stressed, and lonely?
posted by Dansaman at 8:30 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like my husband's saying:

"It's one day closer to Friday!"

That always true, even on Monday.
posted by michellenoel at 8:30 AM on August 16, 2013

Expose the Burma Shave wit to a new generation?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:15 AM on August 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

You can create your own silent movie theater, in slow motion. Draw simple stick figures, include title cards with fancy borders.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:19 AM on August 16, 2013

Years ago on a bus route I road regularly someone had put one of those inflatable green aliens in their upstairs window... always made me smile for some reason.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:12 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Darmok and Jalad... on the ocean.

If you recognized that, you had a little "ah ha" moment. People like that sensation. I think you should grab odd little quotes from tv, film, and pop culture. People who recognize them will have a pleasant feeling of insider knowledge. Those who don't can pass a minute or two doing some research on their phones.
posted by itstheclamsname at 11:25 AM on August 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Seconding neustile, I used to live with three other dudes at the corner of a very busy intersection. One of my roommates was a DJ and owned a bubble machine, which we would put on the roof at rush hour. It was fun to watch drivers looking out the windows to see where all the bubbles were coming from and smiling.

Could you stick a bubble machine in your window? Because hey, bubbles!
posted by 4ster at 5:21 PM on August 17, 2013

Also, on Mondays, I'd put a gigantic poster of this picture in my window.
posted by 4ster at 5:26 PM on August 17, 2013

Apologies. This picture.
posted by 4ster at 10:31 AM on August 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Evil Scientist's Secret Lair!"
posted by Ardea alba at 8:36 PM on August 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

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