Coming from the library the other day I passed by our local uniform store. Pleated, boring cotton/poly blend workclothes and uniforms were awkwardly displayed behind barred windows. And I suddenly felt comforted.
Comforted? I’ve always hated uniforms. I never wanted to join the boy scouts, ’cause I would have had to wear a uniform. The military? I have some moral qualms about it, but I think my biggest problem would have been having to wear a uniform.
And then I thought: Milkman, Baseball Player, Garbageman, Fireman, Policeman. The uniforms tells the job. There’s no ambiguity. It’s comforting.
And then I thought: My father ran a garbage company since the time I was 4. He came home every evening in his uniform. My relationship with my dad was not simple or easy, yet when anyone asked what he did, the answer was simple: He’s a garbageman.
Some kids’ fathers wore suits to work, and there was no way of telling what they did. It was unsettling – “He’s an accountant.” “He’s a professor.” .” He’s a stockbroker.” The words were vague, the jobs were vague, what did they possibly DO in their suits? They all got on the train to San Francisco, they never sweated, so what did they DO?
I heard an interview with the daughter of Frank Loesser (Guys and Dolls) recently. As a girl, she didn’t know what his work was. She saw her father pacing around a room, running over to the piano to plunk notes, muttering under his breath for hours on end. What kind of job was that? What could she possibly tell her friends?
Well, I’m afraid my son may have the same conundrum. I’m going to go over to the uniform store today and see if I can’t find a uniform that says “Composer”. It might provide comfort to him for me to wear such a thing. Heck, it might provide comfort for me.