Monday, October 25, 2010

Knotty issues

Some morning last week (I forget which one and really it’s irrelevant) I got to work slightly on the early side, headed to the men’s room almost immediately upon my arrival (oh the perils of an hour-and-a-half commute) and there bumped into my contracting boss, who was standing at the sinks and using the wall mirror to tie his necktie. I’ve mentioned the “core hours” concept before and my boss prefers to fulfill that obligation by coming in appallingly early, like sometime between 5 and 5:30 a.m. (right about when I’m rolling out of bed, in other words) and then leaving right when core hours end at 3 p.m. Yes this means he works 9 or 10 hour days but he’s the project supervisor and that’s the way it goes. At any rate, his one concession to his own convenience is that he will arrive at the office sans tie, work for a couple of hours in comparative comfort, and then complete his business uncasual ensemble in time to look professional as the majority of the office is arriving. I’ve bumped into him tying on his tie before.

But what I hadn’t encountered before was what happened last week, when someone else entered the men’s room following me and asked my boss how everything was going. And my boss kind of wearily replied “Well, it was going all right until I had to put this tie on.” Wry chuckles ensued.

My dad used to make this joke a lot when I was growing up.  (Insert armchair psychoanalysis here.)
I think I’ve mentioned before that, even though I am in my late thirties and have been working in the corporate world since the mid-90’s, I still consider myself on the kids’ side of any given office’s kids/grown-ups dynamic. For a while there I had a job where I sat in a cube wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and now I have to play dress-up four days a week, but I don’t have to like it. (Disclaiming, as always, that I don’t like that one particular aspect and very much like having gainful, reliable employment, thank you.) Still, I always kind of assume that that’s a kid attitude (which I’m fine with) and that the office grown-ups don’t spare the dress code much thought one way or the other. My boss, obviously, falls on the grown-up side both in terms of rank in the hierarchy and chronological age, not to mention the fact that he used to be in the military and clearly would have had the value of uniform dress instilled in him then. I just found it surprising that he would gripe about having to wear a tie in a tone that aligned so closely with my own thoughts on the subject. I could find it disheartening to think that, on the one hand, in ten or twenty years certain standards we’re forced to observe won’t sit any better with me, and it never gets any easier. But I think instead I’ll choose to find it heartening, simply realizing that my boss and I have more in common than I would have suspected.

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