I was on my way to a conference in San Francisco last week when I saw this sign with safety tips for riding the famous cable cars. I imagine the person that designed these images must have had fun using “sign people” so creatively. The “hang on around curves” picture makes me want to go see if I can get that much air, though, so perhaps they missed the mark. It’s also a bit ironic that the “do not step into oncoming traffic” picture assumes said traffic would be in the form of a taxi. If you’ve spent any time in San Francisco, you’ll know it’s next to impossible to get a cab. In any case, next time you come to visit the city by the bay, take heed.
I try really hard to ignore advertising on the Internet, but unfortunately, this ad caught my attention. Imagine the flags animated, marching swiftly around the border of the message. The obnoxious movement caught my eye, but then I read the text and realized that not only did someone write the absurd first line, but someone also paid to have it placed where real people could read it. This copywriter needs to hook up with the fortune cookie writer for a few tips, I think…
There’s nothing I hate more than dressing up. Well, that’s probably not completely true. I probably hate other things as much or more. But in this moment, the Friday night before I start a new job – the first job I’ve had in ten years that requires me to dress “Business Casual”– I detest the fact that next week I will have to wear clothes that I don’t want to wear and shoes that will invariably hurt my feet.
Almost as bad as wearing the clothes, is shopping for the clothes. I come from short stock and inherited the husky genes of the Eastern European women that came before me. That combination precludes me from finding almost anything off the rack that fits me. I have to hem all my pants, and even the sleeves of business suits. Shirt length is a problem, too. Apparently only tall persons are meant to have broad bodies.
As if that weren’t enough, I have feet that are flatter than the plains of Nebraska. I’m supposed to wear custom orthotics to fool my feet into thinking they have an arch, but that rules out about 99% of shoes in the world. The rigid blue plastic inserts add just enough height that my heel slips right out of the shoe with every step I take. Add to this that the forms, made after my doctor molded “fitted polyester casting socks” to my oddly shaped feet, drop off abruptly before the ball of my foot, leaving a hard ridge that reminds me constantly of its presence via blisters.
To deal with these abhorrent problems, when I do find clothes that fit, I buy at least half a dozen of them in different colors. Yes, I’m one of those people. Normally, I only have to worry about buying t-shirts, jeans, and the occasional pair of sneakers, though, which is considerably more manageable than maintaining a wardrobe of Business Casual. Years ago, when I escaped corporate America for smaller companies, I swore would never again work for anyone that forced me to dress up. I know. Never say never.
In high school, I played clarinet in the concert band. Girls had to wear floor-length black polyester sleeveless dresses with a mile-long zipper up the back, underneath which were white blouses, also polyester. We despised the puffy long sleeves and odd built-in scarf thingy that tied in a complicated way under our chins and hung like a long narrow double bib down our fronts. Boys got to wear black pants and jackets with white button down shirts so at least they looked like they were from the century we were living in.
My sister, two years behind me, joined band when she got to high school, and when it came time for her to don the hideous outfit, she expressed her disgust like all of us had before her; she questioned why we had to wear uniforms at all. Despite the fact that I agreed with her, in an effort to prove my superior knowledge, I answered her complaints quickly by regurgitating the reasoning I’d heard from our band director when I was a freshman. Drum roll, please. Uniforms create uniformity.
If we all looked alike, we would effectively disappear, and the audience would not be distracted from the music in any way. We were not there to be individuals. Not to mention, we were an accomplished lot for a high school band, with a director who could have wiped the floor with Richard Dreyfuss in Mr. Holland’s Opus. We should look the part. Of course, I failed to acknowledge that none of these reasons explained the necessity of our particular abominable uniform.
As I write this, I have to admit that I still can’t find much fault in the reasons we had to wear uniforms in high school band, which perhaps makes the teeth of my argument against Business Casual a bit less sharp. Nonetheless, I still seethe with irritation at the thought.
I can’t decide if being forced to dress a certain way as an adult feels more invasive than it did when I was still a teenager, or if it was just too long ago for me to recall the degree to which I felt oppressed in high school. I do remember a sort of resignation that came with the knowledge that at least we all had to wear exactly the same thing, so I looked no worse and was no less comfortable than the person next to me.
It might not be evident based on my opinion of business dress codes, but I am actually not much of a rebel at all. Most people that know me would say I’m quite rule-bound. I hate being late to anything; in fact, if I’m not at least fifteen minutes early that qualifies as late. I obey all the traffic laws and am what you would call a defensive driver. I wait for the walk signal even when the street is empty. I never cut in line or miss a deadline.
Early in my career, when I was first thrust into an environment in which business suits were the norm, I had the same issues with locating clothes that I do today. I was young and fresh, though; eager to impress the experienced consultants around me, I suppressed the dress-clothes-loathing part of my personality and aimed to conform. I even wore some sort of strap meant for people with tennis elbow to cover a tattoo on my forearm. After I left the corporate world, I kept only one suit, and for more than a decade, it served as my all-purpose outfit for interviews, weddings, and funerals.
But, here I am, making a foray back into corporate America, forced again to comply with the policy of Business Casual. Why, I wonder, do people still believe casual clothes aren’t appropriate for an office? My girlfriend says dressing up shows respect for the role. While I don’t disagree, neither do I believe dress clothes are necessary to illustrate respect. I do understand why it makes sense in her world – the world of a public school principal. She wants to portray authority and while formal dress cannot accomplish that alone, it can certainly bolster her image. She also happens to be tall and thin; she can be comfortable in anything.
My issue is not with those that enjoy dressing up. To them, I say, have at it. But for people like me, dressing up is a form of torture. I’m physically and mentally uncomfortable, inherently in a worse mood than I would otherwise be, and I can’t wait to get out of the office at the end of the day so I can be comfortable again. I can guarantee Business Casual has a negative impact on my productivity, even if it is slight.
The stinger in Business Casual is, without a doubt, “Casual Friday”. You might think it would ease the pain of having to dress up the rest of the week, but to me it simply makes an absurd rule even more preposterous. It tells us that the corporate rule-makers acknowledge the constraint of Business Casual is loathsome; otherwise why throw in the “perk” of being able to dress down on Fridays? Or taken another way, if the powers that be truly believe we won’t conduct ourselves appropriately in jeans, do they expect we won’t get anything done on Fridays?
Note: Just to clarify for regular readers that I’m not actually about to start a new job, I wrote this last summer.
A few months ago, I began a brief consulting assignment for a guy I found quite perplexing. He is the sort of guy that thinks very highly of himself, yet also surrounds himself with consultants, many of which he strings along from one part of the organization to another as he himself moves around. After one of our first meetings, I’d have said he had a big head, but I didn’t need to because he did so nicely by referring to himself as the “head on the horse.”
I’m not really sure how I kept a straight face (or maybe I didn’t and he just didn’t see my brow pinch in consternation), especially because he squeezed it into the conversation six times in an hour. Imagine a few variations of this:
“I didn’t really want to take on this project, but the boss needed someone that could really get it done, and he knows I’m the head on the horse. I’ll get things done, whether people like it or not. I mean, this project really needs a head on a horse, and that’s me.”
“My professional life is really looking up,” I thought to myself at the end of that painful hour. Then I began my work.
One of my tasks was to update a stakeholder “molecule diagram,” which had been drafted by another consultant that came before me but then left the company mysteriously. A “molecule diagram” is sort of what you’d think it’d be, but applied in a way that is somehow both superfluous and just plain stupid. In this case, company departments were named in circles randomly placed on a large page, connected with lines of varying length to a central circle that represented the project (the project that needed the head on the horse). Then, individual stakeholders were shown in smaller circles that spider-ed out from the department circles. I can only imagine if it were a model of a real thing, it’d be some kind of free-will-stealing, integrity-thieving, crazy-making substance we’d all best stay far away from. Even as a poorly chosen representational thing, it had that effect on me.
One of these days, I will figure out what kind of work I can do that won’t leave me feeling like I’m pimping myself out so someone else can get rich selling the same ideas to the same client every few months. In the meantime, I’m open to suggestions…
I know I just did a Follow the links post, and I’d normally give it some time before putting another out there, but in my effort to catch up, I’ve got more I need to share, so please – follow the links…
Congrats are in order for Tele of Hooked, and I want to spread the word about her success! I’ve been very lucky to stumble across the writing of a few people that I’ve also been able to create a genuine connection with, even if it is just in blogland, and Tele is one of those people. I’m so excited to see her piece on National Fisherman. Check it out!
And, because I haven’t introduced anyone new in a while, and this piece is worth every second of your time, please read Valuing the impulsive word on bottledworder, a blog I recently started reading and suspect I will continue to follow closely.
Mary Jaksch, Chief Editor at Write to Done did a wonderful interview with Seth Godin, and he has some great things to say about writing, making art, and his new book, The Icarus Deception. It’s a must read (more on this later).
And to close on a light note … like Stephanie at Listful Thinking, I too come from a family that has not yet evolved to incorporate the hug into social interactions. If you are one of us and get tired of people looking at you funny, read this. I promise you’ll feel much better.
For the past number of months, I’ve been struggling with some personal challenges, and one of the most disagreeable side effects was that I couldn’t write. I thought about it. I meant to. I wanted to. I tried to. I jotted down notes about things I should write about, but the writing never came. It still feels a bit like slogging through mud, but I’m here and am hopeful that I’ve come back to a place where I can again make this part of my routine. While I’m still brushing off the cobwebs, though, I came across a photo I took at work one day, of what can only be called a surreal, yet real, version of a child’s Matchbox car. Don’t you wish you could see what’s behind the tinted windows?
I started this post four months ago, which makes it incredibly overdue, and if I thought I was slacking then, I’m not sure what to even call it at this point…
I was pleasantly surprised (and very humbled) a couple of
weeks months ago when Graham of Graham’s Crackers nominated me for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award (especially since my writing habits haven’t been all that inspiring of late – I’ve been slacking quite a bit in the past few months). Nonetheless, his doing so happened to help inspire me to get back on the horse again. Thanks, Graham! I needed that. As a recipient of the nomination, I will now nominate seven others, while also sharing seven random facts about myself. I’m going to do this all at once by linking to others’ whose posts themselves illustrate the random facts I intend to share about myself. I apologize in advance that this seems sort of circular. It is.
1. In Google reader, I have a handful of categories for the blogs I follow. “Agents and Advice,” for those moments when I think maybe I’ll publish something someday (current unread count: 162). Second is “Beginner Bloggers,” which might seem odd unless you’ve taken part in one of the “platform building campaigns” that Rachel of Rach Writes organizes a couple times a year. When I started this blog I stumbled across her campaign and decided to join. The blogs in this category represent what’s left of the other people in the Beginner Bloggers group I joined (current unread count: 3 – maybe that deserves its own posts one of these days). Next is “Creativity,” which I think I meant as a shot in the arm for those times I seem to have no idea what to write about (which is really almost always, so it’s a good thing it’s simply a figurative shot in the arm).
The two last categories are “Humor” and “Writers”. “Writers” is the category I use for almost every other blog I’ve come across that I wanted to stick with, unless the writing is always funny (or almost always, anyway), in which case, it goes in “Humor”. 2. I have two blogs in Humor, the wuc and listful thinking (though I’m sure there are plenty of other funny writers out there). Read on…
3. Check out this post on listful thinking – it’s funny and an all too accurate commentary on our relationship with technology.
4. Next, I may never have shared with the world how much I like pickles – or other pickled vegetables – but, it’s true. I’m a pushover – especially for pickled brussels sprouts. So, of course, I loved reading “In a pickle.”
5. Charlie Hale’s post, Juvenile Delinquency, reminds me why I started doing genealogical research.
6. Graham recently pointed out my fixation with writing about odd things, though he put it much more eloquently than that. The Tall Person, of Bassa’s Blog, does brilliantly with pictures what I can only attempt to do with words. Look at a few of his pictures, and you’ll see things that I doubt anyone could write about with any success. Check out this one, and this one, and this one – and then keep going back for more. On the other hand, if you were to take a picture of some of the things that I find perplexing or out of place, they probably wouldn’t seem very odd at all.
7. I’m constantly amazed at John-Bryan Hopkins, the force behind Foodimentary. Every day is National-some-kind-of-food day. Every day. He never misses a beat. I grew up in the midwest and will always have a soft spot for these things – thing 1, thing 2, thing 3. I am also particularly amused by the quotes by Yogi Berra and Dorothy Allison, on this page at Foodimentary.
Thank you to everyone I’ve linked to in this post – you all inspire me and I very much enjoy reading the thing you write about.