Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I miss uniforms. I was in Costco today and asked the wrong person where the artichokes were. He didn’t work there. How can we tell anymore?

Try finding a sales clerk in a department store. We’re on our own. The only ones on the floor are security guards and cashiers. Even the manikins have gone. Electronic outlets are no better. I try to spot the nerdiest guy but everyone looks nerdy except for those of us looking lost. Teachers show up wearing football jerseys. My old dentist comes to the office straight from pulling weeds. Even my barber disdains a smock. Doctors have shed their white coats to help patients whose blood pressure rises when they see a white coat.

It must be part of the leveling effect. We’re all in this together, is the dress code. This is the age of pretend classless society. No assigned roles No pretenses. If you insist on uniforms go to the ball game.

It occurs to me that the uniforms I’m thinking of disappeared about fifty years ago along with their jobs.

Apparel Doth Oft Proclaim

With her bright red jacket and flashlight
she patrolled the aisles,
then hushed and ushered us
through the pitch dark,
projecting herself on the big screen,
then fading to black.

Gone, too, the doorman with his epaulets,
our peacetime commander,
who lived on tips, waved, whistled
and launched a thousand taxis,
having fled Europe himself
as constable or professor.

And where is the elevator operator,
in authority for the length of his shift,
traveling vertical miles on one spot
from Icarus to Orpheus as he alone
contracted and expanded
those wrought iron lungs?

She had no name, saw plenty
of wandering arms in the balcony.
The other two wrote novels in their heads
from what was overheard, answered
to first names, spoke politely to Mr.& Mrs.
then slipped away unnoticed,

loud uniforms, shiny buttons and all.
Jackets and caps now in a vintage shop,
indignity and pride embedded in the fabric.
In one pocket dried lipstick and a stick of gum,
in another, an empty flask and
a check for two bucks, un-cashed.

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