Flag-Wavin’ Joe

If you live in Rochester, you’ve probably heard of “the flag-waving guy.” You’ve driven past him on your way to work, or you’ve seen him in the local news. The man’s gotten some press over the years.

Yeah. Years. He’s been at it as long as I can remember, and probably much longer. His name is Joe Johnson, and people call him the flag-waving guy because on almost any day of the year he can be found on the sidewalk outside his apartment on Second Street, usually waving a United States flag. He has others, like his Mexican flag for Cinco de Mayo, for example. But the red, white and blue is his trademark.

If not a flag, he might be spotted just waving Pepsi cans at passing traffic, with equal gusto, though the Stars and Stripes are clearly closer to his heart. He is a patriot in the most sincere, pure, and non-partisan kind of way. He is also almost always barefoot, and often shirtless even in the dead of winter. He appears to be totally immune to the cold. He claims he’s just warm-blooded.

People are either amused, puzzled, or inspired by Joe. Some people do not approach him. Some people are missing out. Because in stopping and talking with Joe on many occasions, my wife and I have found him to be a very talkative, fun-loving and sweet man. He’s retired, and he does what he does, seemingly for the absolute hell of it, but you get the sense that he takes it as his responsibility – his civic duty even, and that it means the world to him.

Apparently the feeling is mutual. His recent absence from his post on Second Street raised enough question that he’s made the news again. Turns out he had his gall bladder removed and has since been hospitalized with high blood pressure and non-stop headaches.

Maybe by the time this post is published he’ll be home recuperating. For all I know, by then he’ll already be back at it with the star-spangled banner waving. And I certainly hope so.

Every town should have a Joe. I mean only Rochester, Minnesota has our Flag-Wavin’ Joe, but my sincere wish is that every town has someone like him who you can scarcely imagine driving through the neighborhood without seeing, someone so dependable that if he’s not there, the alarm is raised and someone calls the radio station about it. I wish we could all look out for each other that way. But not every one stands out as much as Joe.

Every town should have a Joe, if only to provide a splash of color, whether it be the red, white, and blue, or any other colors Joe feels like throwing on, on any given morning. We need people like him for the same reason we need our music to have different notes. And really what’s the point of anything if you can’t, every now and then, see a guy waving a U.S. flag, wearing a giant sombrero, a tie-dyed sweatshirt, and Las Vegas-themed shorts, and only think “Oh good, Joe’s here”? Serious question.

Dear reader, if you are reading this and wondering who your town’s Joe is, maybe it is you. If so, please be that. Be the hell out of it. We need you.

If you see this, Joe, we hope you’re well. Thank you for making our city a little bit more fun. We look forward to stopping by for another chat the next time we get the chance.

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