'Compliment Machine' Dispenses Kind Words

A box placed on a busy street corner in Washington dispenses kind words.

July 23, 2007 — -- Harry Truman once said, "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."

In the absence of a pet, Washingtonians can get their warm fuzzies on 14th and Q Streets NW, thanks to the newly installed interactive art piece, the "Compliment Machine."

Kind Words in Tough Town

The "Compliment Machine" does exactly what its name implies -- it dispenses kind words to passersby after the sound of a bell -- something sadly lacking in the capital, where acrimony and insults between the warring political parties are all too common.

The white box with red stripes is a little more than 5 feet tall and sits in the middle of a parking area on the corner of a residential and business sector of the District of Columbia.

It is part of the Washington Project for the Arts Site Project, an art installation that includes about a dozen art projects within six blocks of one another.

Equipped with 150 distinct compliments -- such as "You are an excellent driver" and "You smell great" -- the machine is the brainchild of artist Tom Greaves, who also voices each compliment.

Boxed Social Commentary

Greaves works and lives, ironically enough, on Capitol Hill. He says his intent was to comment on modern culture, in which everyone, regardless of performance, is called a winner.

"Sometimes people need a pick me up, and a pat of the back is just the thing. But too many pats and the back gets sore. Then it doesn't mean anything," Greaves told ABC News.

Huh? Has he been listening to his neighbors? No pats on the back in the Capitol lately, that's for sure.

In the past few weeks alone, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., stood on the Senate floor and called Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., "rude."

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., accused the president's nominee for surgeon general of being "indifferent and dismissive" during a hearing.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., has subpoenaed a host of administration officials, and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., plans to offer a censure resolution for both President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

No pats on the back, there.

Maybe the "Compliment Machine" needs to be moved to the Capitol, where folks could use a few nice words.

ABC News' David Wright, Stephanie Z. Smith, Jon Garcia contributed to this report.