I’m sitting on the M2 express bus this afternoon as the driver expertly dips in and out of rush hour traffic on Madison Avenue. The air conditioning blows throughout the bus full throttle creating a moving refrigerator. So cold in fact one needs a sweater, but no one complains as the alternative is the hot and muggy temps outside.
I got on the bus early so I got a window seat far enough back that I wouldn’t have to worry about giving my seat up to the elderly, handicap or pregnant. Not that I mind but hey if I can keep my seat without guilt, I prefer that option. With my IPod crooning old school Usher into my ears and the bus too packed to back seat drive I look out of the window. Block after block I see men and women leaving work and rushing down the street. At first I didn’t notice it but then after a few blocks it was impossible not to see how much everyone looked the same. The men were all wearing dark or khaki colored pants with blue, white or light pink button down oxford shirts.
Several women cross the street and I could barely discern the difference between their dark knee-length dresses and straight hair. The bus continues. 42nd Street. Blue shirts, white shirts, one pink shirt, dark pants. 50th Street. Blue shirts, white shirts, two pink shirts, dark pants. 60th Street. The same. 75th Street. The same.
I felt like someone was playing a trick on me but I knew they weren’t. What I was witnessing was a birds-eye view of the uniform of office conformity. People who were not coming from work were easily spotted with printed getups of all colors outside of black, blue, grey, khaki, white and light pink.
I remember getting the dress code memo’s when first starting a job. We gals have a few more options but the guys get screwed and not adhering to the code could easily get one fired. Yet, that uniform is not a tax write-off!
You sit in a cubicle in front of a computer and type all day: sending emails, reading emails, creating documents, sending the documents, reading the documents. If you have an office you do the same but from behind a door locked off from the camaraderie of all the lesser senior staff. But you worked hard for that office.
When I think back to my early twenties I don’t know how I ever anticipated with excitement the office world. Sure I conform pretty easy, I was trained well, but in all honesty I don’t ever again want to be that drone walking down the street undecipherable from the next drone next to me. I prefer to live my life in all of its intensity and neurosis on the outskirts of midtown as I haggle with the narcissists and irritating hipsters of uptown and downtown.