San Franciscans have been scratching their heads over mysterious fake campaign posters that have popped up across the Bay Area since early August.
The signs state “Teland is not running for office” and include contact information and a picture of the spritely young fellow. The posters appear in both English and Chinese languages, often next to genuine candidate’s posters in the race to become District 4 Supervisor—but just like Leanna Louie, he won’t actually appear on the November ballot.
The youngster’s art shot to Reddit fame recently, with curious viewers remarking that the signs had made them laugh, smile and even declare: “You’ve got my vote!”
But who is the spontaneous pseudo-candidate, what urged him to embark on this guerilla-art “side quest” and what makes him tick?
Teland La, as it happens, is a 19-year-old Stanford computer science student who is fed up with Starbucks employees spelling his name wrong, forcing him to repeat himself over and over.
Thus began the quest: Make as many people in the world as possible know his name, and have those unenlightened baristas spell it right, for once.
“With no issues, no asking for spelling, they [Starbucks’ baristas] write it perfectly, then mission success!” said Teland, who admits he does this kind of thing for fun.
His friends call projects like this one Teland’s “side quests” and they’ve covered broad topics, earning him national acclaim for a podcast about choosing a career, over 1.6 million music streams across platforms, and attention for a fake travel sign declaring Daly City “the most boring city in the Bay Area” that was picked up by local press.
He’s even trying to get a street named after himself in his hometown of Daly City. Starbucks and Daly City Council were contacted for comment.
Teland’s city signs can most easily be spotted along Noriega Street and 33rd Avenue, by Chinese restaurants and bakeries, bumping edges with the likes of incumbent Supervisor Gordon Mar, challenger Joel Engardio and Louie, who was booted out of the race Friday by the city attorney.
“You only get one shot at life. I want to do as much as possible,” said Teland, who claims his Major Jobs podcast was used to teach high school classes across the country, and said that teachers contacted him to tell him they were using it. “That’s one of the great things that I can hear.”
Sunset resident Laura Closkey remarked on the signs as she walked by. “He looks like he’s 13,” she said. “I kind of like the concept of the anti-politician but you can’t be like, a joke.”
But for now at least, the teenager says he has no ambition to ever be a serious candidate for any political position, although he is interested in politics, how local government works and how human beings react with their environments, physically and digitally—which is related to his studies.
“In terms of my political opinion, the goal of this is to stay away from that and be fun,” he said.
And if you want a Teland sign, well—you’ll have to wait, maybe forever. The teenager says he would likely only sell them to raise money for charity, but that he’s yet to figure out the logistics. He has given a number of the posters that cost $2 each to produce out to friends though.
“I would definitely not like to make money from them personally,” he said.
One thing is for sure, though: If nobody else could figure that out, Teland would.
Joe Burn can be reached at [email protected]