Missing the straitjacket
Wake up. Snooze, sleep. Repeat 3 times (may vary). Get out of bed. Wash (optional). Breakfast (optional). Coffee (necessary).
Take ironed shirt from night before, tuck into pants. Place belt around said pants. Get tie fitting right, add shoes, hair and makeup (optional).
Wallet, keys, iPhone/Blackberry/mp3 player and out the door.
You may remember such mindless routines from mornings such as Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and, um, Friday.
On a bad morning, even if you love your work, wearing the suit can feel like the final piece of the puzzle – a cunning societal ploy which is akin to the voluntary prisoner that admits his guilt, puts himself in a chain gang, and fits her/his own straitjacket on the way to the electric chair.
In the rat race, the suit marks us as 100% rat. At the same time, when one exits their respective place of employment, a suit provides the self confidence and strut that comes with that special combination of being well dressed and not at work (see Postgrads at uni or suits at the pub).
It was the latter side of this suit contradiction that was highlighted in my experience a few weeks back. I’ll elaborate.
Last week I left my job, in preparation for other pastures which I’m not yet sure are greener. Freedom tasted sweet, but there was nonetheless a lingering aftertaste, as though the sweetness came at a price – like when you’ve finished a Red Bull and are reminded of the Jägerbombs consumed the previous night.
For the first time in a while I was out and about in the great sprawl of the city in jeans/shirt/jacket gear. Even walking was more leisurely when not confined to black, pointy, gator-style formal shoes (the ‘foot-suit’).
I was loving the casual look ‘til the critical time disrupted my euphoria – 5:30pm Thursday afternoon. The water in my cup began to shake, the waves rippling outward indicating a large force approaching the streets outside. It was an environment I was all too familiar with, but now I was on the outside looking in. The ground shook, the vaguely audible bell of clocks ticking 5:30pm in all surrounding office blocks sent a wave of white collar excitement reverberating through the city centre.
Then the chatter could be heard, initially distant, but creeping in and engulfing the area – here are the snippets.
“I had a report due, but I spent most of the day stapling stuff…my recommendations never get through to management anyway”
“The new guy is a bit quiet…probably hasn’t figured out our boss is a tosser” – chuckles.
“I just think she’s so unprofessional…” Evidently, this commentator was wearing a skirt I initially confused for a g-string. She must be in finance.
As the suits came thundering down in hoards to cramp venues serving social lubricant, the “sweetness” I initially felt turned into a strange feeling of not being involved and also being strangely underdressed.
The allure of the suit is that you can stand out and fit in all at the same time, and it was coming back to haunt me. I went to meet some friends who were finishing work, and they almost didn’t recognise me.
Bartenders ignored my presence serving the suits preferentially, baristas gave me the ‘why would you need coffee – doesn’t even look like you work’ look. And the ladies…well let’s not go there.
So I resigned myself to spending time with university colleagues who were still “academically involved” and would be so for the next few years. They had never been to the suit side, and thus couldn’t understand my vexing dilemma.
So what do you call a former race-runner who wants his suit back? That’s 110% Rat.
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