In an hour’s time the 20-year-olds spread hundreds of commendations, giving the thumb’s up to beards, beads, smiles, shoes, and even sandwiches. (“Enjoy that sandwich! That looks good!”)
Following along were representatives of Kodak, the company that has outfitted a bus to help the two college students travel on a 10-city tour they are calling the “BrightSide” tour. “We’re encouraging people to look on the bright side of life,” said spokesperson Dwayna Haley.
Brown and Westcott were both characteristically effusive about Kodak’s support. “It’s increased exponentially the number of people we can compliment,” said Brown. Most of the complimented were cheered by the experience.
“They’re doing a nice job,” said Charles Michaelson of Atlanta, wearing an attractive plaid shirt over a sparkling white T-shirt. “I wish I would have thought of that.”
Westcott, voted most outgoing at his high school in Plainfield, Ill., began the experimental flattery last fall, standing outside the chemistry building and complimenting passersby every Wednesday afternoon. He was joined by Brown shortly thereafter.
Videos of the two earned many hits on YouTube. “We just like giving out compliments,” said Brown, a management major. “People walk with their heads down, and we want them to look up and smile.”
“Nice Chuck Taylors!” hollered Westcott, a student of civil engineering, praising a young man’s sneakers as children splashed in the fountain nearby.
Catching flies with honey brought the pair many rounds of high fives from their audience, though some of the buttered-up were suspicious.
“Don’t listen to a word they say,” warned a stern blonde third-grader to her friend, as the two ate lunch on the lawn with a summer camp group from a Marietta church.
“But they’re giving away free compliments,” the boy responded.
“Well, they’re still weird.”