The Retiree: April 16, 2014


Grandkids were curious, as usual. “Grandpa, where did you work when you got out of school?”
“I was in mail order, kids. I could have taken jobs in Seattle or Chicago, but I didn't like the looks of those jobs. So I worked at the biggest poured concrete building west of Chicago. In the Midway, between Minneapolis and St. Paul.”
“Wow! Can we go see it?”
“Sorry, it got torn down. It's a parking lot now,” I said. “You just can't leave anything lying around.”
“Did you take the light rail to work?”
“No light rail. Streetcars and buses. I drove, unless my old Ford was giving me trouble.”
“What was it like, way back then?” they chorused.
“We had to dress up. White shirt, tie, jacket. No air conditioning except in the house manager's office, and you didn't want to go there. We called everyone Mister Lastname, even at the bowling alley, or at the Town House across the street, or Napoleon’s down the avenue after the house manager got thrown out of the Town House.”
“How about lady managers? Did the ladies dress up?”
“There were no ladies in management there,” I said, “except for a few in Order Clerical, but they were supervisors, and the manager was a man,” I said. “Teachers, when I was your age, wore suits. Women teachers wore nylons and heels.”
“Teachers?” they all shouted.
“And students had to be neat. No jeans. No writing on the shirts.” I could see I was losing all credibility, so I decided to quit telling them.
But I still had more that I left unsaid. In a German assignment as a consultant before my third retirement, we had to dress up. The Germans didn't. Their project leader one day decided he was too sloppy and put on a tie. It said, in English, “I'm the Boss.”
We dressed up to take a plane. We dressed up for church. We dressed up to go out in the evening. We saw panhandlers in New York wearing white shirts and ties.
Now, dressing up involves putting on socks, or tucking in your t-shirt.
Wait until I tell them about not having computers, or smart phones, or internet, or fast food, or unleaded gas, or automatic transmissions. They're just not ready for that.
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