By Jim Hagarty
When you work in the same office day after day, year after year, you get to know your environment pretty well. You become familiar with practically every square inch of the place. You also, through daily observation, learn all the habits, idiosyncrasies and clothing styles of your fellow workers. They, in turn, are equally studied in the details of their environment of which you are a part.
Therefore, sneezing patterns, laughing fits, temper tantrums and annoying mannerisms all become extremely familiar to the observant office worker. And so, a change, no matter how slight, is instantly noticed, often commented on and sometimes, made a big deal of.
Over the years, no one in our office has taken greater notice of his surroundings than I. Why that is so, I am not sure, but fellow workers have often been made happily aware of my keen eye for observation. Rare is the person who has been able to sneak by my desk with a new shirt on or a fresh haircut, without my seeing the change right away. And offering a very generous compliment about it, I must say.
But this seemingly harmless habit has a downside to it. On those infrequent occasions when I sport some new piece of apparel to work or come in with a new haircut, my fellow workers are lined up to have their say about the change. This often makes me nervous about making any changes at all because their comments are rarely as kind as the ones I make when I notice the changes they’ve made. I have no idea why they act that way.
They were at their usual sharp-tongued selves last week when I wore a new sweater to work. It is a hand-knit, wool, sweater-coat, with a big collar and large wooden buttons up the front. It is warm and comfortable, if a little casual for the workplace.
“Hi Ward! How’s the Beav?” came the first comment from a staff photographer who shall remain nameless, referring, of course, to the sweater-clad father, Ward Cleaver on the old TV show, Leave It To Beaver.
“Hey, nice sweater!” commented a certain composing room worker who shall also remain anonymous. “Where’s your slippers?”
But worst of all was the slander spewed by a newsroom employee whom I shall also decline to name. “Charlie Farquharson called,” said the jealous journalist. “He wants his sweater back.” (Charlie was a folksy farmer TV character played by an actor in Canada at the time.)
There were other unflattering things said, most of them too painful for me to talk about here. Suffice it to say, it was the worst case of sweater abuse I’ve ever seen.
And, of course, I didn’t deserve a word of it.
Enough of this clothesism, I say.
Enough of this textile harassment.