In 2016, I was a very broke writer living in New York, mostly stitching together a living through side hustles.
I freelanced for MTV News. I babysat rambunctious kids on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. I did catering at a private event space in the Tribeca neighborhood of the borough … Some months my bank account was down to less than $200.
Early in the year, I helped a creative agency called Ready Set Rocket write copy for a voting-oriented website. Around April of that year, I reached out to them again to see if they had any more projects in the pipeline.
Six weeks later, while walking down the West Side Highway in Manhattan, I saw a billboard with some words that looked familiar … And I realized I had written them.
‘We’ve bought you this galaxy. You’re welcome.’
When I reached out to RSR about forthcoming work, they told me they were working with Manhattan-based storage space company Manhattan Mini Storage on a series of billboards. They wanted quippy slogans connecting outer space and storage space.
I sent them a list of nine possible slogans, including the following:
- Hey. Hey, New Yorker. You need more space, right? We got you.
- We’ve bought you this galaxy. You’re welcome.
- Einstein knew a few things about space. Whatever. So do we.
- Hillary says space exploration’s the future. We agree.
At the time, I was charging $30 per hour for copywriting services. The project took 90 minutes altogether, so I invoiced the company, got my $45, and moved on with my hustles.
‘Einstein knew a bit about space. Whatever. So do we.’
By late May, I had more or less forgotten about the project. The turnaround time was so quick and I needed to keep making money — ideally more than $45 at a time. At that point, I had picked up a summer babysitting gig and was walking toward the subway on Manhattan’s West Side Highway when I noticed a billboard from Manhattan Mini Storage.
“Einstein knew a bit about space. Whatever. So do we.” it said.
That line sounded strangely familiar … Was it something I’d sent? I went into my emails, fished out those nine slogans and there it was (or, at least, the original version of it).
I couldn’t believe it. A line I’d written nearly two months before was now immortalized on a billboard above New York City. It felt like the kind of crazy dream that could only happen there. A year later I saw the same billboard in another Manhattan location, walking along the High Line.
Unlike articles, there are no bylines on billboards. Nobody else knew I wrote it. But seeing this thing I’d come up with in minutes and completely forgotten about looming over the city brought me more joy than so many projects the world knew I’d written.
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