Before Zuckerberg’s t-shirt or Steve Jobs’ turtle neck there were suits. Three-piece or gray flannel or those you could buy at Sears with two pair of pants, all wool gabardine. People wore them to see a play or fly from here to there. I wore a smock, on and off, for fifty years as a dispenser of assorted remedies and assuring words. I don’t miss mine at all.
Maybe they’ve been replaced by tattoos and bumper stickers. We’re not our job anymore; we are individuals each making his/her own major statement. Egalitarianism allows us to dress down, to slum or choose a wardrobe out of thrift stores. Designers have lines of scrupulous sloppiness with ventilation at the knees. There are friends I have never seen in jeans and others who always wear them. To each his uniform.
All of which leads me to remember vanished uniforms along with the jobs themselves. What ever happened to that young woman with her bright jacket and flashlight patrolling the aisles as she hushed us and ushered us kids in the dark movie house, darker still because it was Saturday afternoon and we always came in the middle of a film. Was she dreaming of being discovered, projecting herself on the big screen. Or did she fade to black?
Gone, too, is the doorman with his epaulets, our peacetime commander who lived on tips. He waved, whistled and launched a thousand taxis. Doormen disappeared or did they just live in movies set on 5th Ave? I imagined these quasi-aristocrats fled Europe as professors or constables and had to settle for the ignominy of brass buttons.
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?
The usher had no name but saw plenty of wandering arms in the balcony. Maybe the other two wrote novels in their heads from snatches overheard. They answered to first name only and remembered to speak politely to Mr. and Mrs…. on the 23rd floor.
They slipped away unnoticed, loud uniforms, shiny buttons and all. Jackets and caps now in vintage shops, 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, uncashed.