[I wrote this sometime back in 1999, I believe. Unlike many of my older writings, this one didn’t have a date. I seem to recall a lot of sunshine around the time I put this together, so let’s just call it June. June … 6th. Sure.]
I always find that when I have much about which to write, I do not. Perhaps it is the sheer weight of the eventual creation that causes this block, like a box of sand so dense that it refuses to open inward. And that is what I need to do, I need to open inward.
It has been a long string of days, weeks, months. I am horribly and terrifically busy. I tell my friends (often in excuse of my occasional solitude) that I work, I rehearse and I sleep. And the sleep is often the one out of those three that gets the least of my time. And the funny thing is that I have done this to myself before. Not to say that I have not learned from prior experience. At least this time around I have not consumed so much caffeine that my body demands a self-enforced detoxification.
So today finds me performing in the role of filler. Occupying space made vacant by the absence of another employee, I have left the comfort of my office to go to the “other building” – the name given by occupants of either location to refer to the building they are not in, and always said with a subliminal shudder. The company for whom I work has three locations, two of them within a logistic mile of one another. I say a “logistic” mile because one must take into account factors of weather, time, season and traffic before attempting this seemingly easy mile of travel. Because of the corporate migration from the downtowns to the suburbs, the area around me is covered in secular temples of mirroring glass, concrete and steel. In amongst these edifices are various trees and scrubs, lakes and fountains, shaped cement pavers and generically unoffensive culptures. Linking them all, one to another are expansive blacktop parking lots, winding pseudo-roads overseen by corporate park rangers rather than the department of transportation. Despite its commercial intent, there is an odd and unsettling beauty to it all.
But yet these architectural creations are mere containers, and these containers collect their contents every weekday morning at 8am and spill them out on the limited roadways and highways at 5pm. It makes a driven sixty-second mile become a monstrous twenty-minute ordeal. And during this time you can look around at your fellow drivers, some within less than fifteen feet of you, and none of them notice anything other than the position of the car ahead or the hue of the overhanging traffic light — even though those colors of red, yellow and green mean nothing when competing against the will of a determined SUV driving soccer-mom fighting through the steel caged masses, trying to make it home in time to “collect herself” before time for dinner, whether she is making it, reheating it or simply calling ahead for delivery.
There is a definite corporate consciousness. And overwhelming sense of belonging to something greater, though it is not at all as spiritual or as enlightening as a church or a meeting hall. Things are simply differently accepted. Take the polo shirt, for instance. There are various grades of knitted material, some of it most textured and/or expensive than others, but there is a prescribed medium. The silk polo shirt you will not see, nor the wool or the linen. It won’t work. How the polo shirt came to be, other than that we can trace it to the Izod alligator and the ready-to-strike Polo player of Ralph Lauren, is a mystery. It just one day became standard accepted practice. But why? It is by no means a flattering piece of attire. Who looks good in a polo shirt, I mean really? Many are designed by golf pros, which if nothing else confirms a lack of fashion, where better to seek a lack of color coordination than our nation’s swingers of the alloy shaft and rubber grip….
(… breathe …)
It is just a question of why. Why do things become an accepted and encouraged norm when they have no justification in a logical sense even at their inception? One could possibly blame capitalism, advertisement, sponsors telling us that we need things we would never want. But it predates conscious promotion. I can rail against the inanity of the polo shirt (I own six), the necktie (I own fifteen or so) and the buttondown oxford shirt (a fleet of twelve or so in my closet hanging and ready right now), but what can be done? The same criticisms can be levied at more intimate activities. Kissing. Hugging. The handshake has been explained historically as a way to shake any concealed weapons out of a suspicious sleeve, but why continue the practice today? One can hardly hide a dagger in the sleeve of a polo shirt. Never would we ever admit that we just welcome the accepted excuse to actually come into physical contact with another human being. Businessmen are making deals, not satisfying Maslovian needs for touch and affection. Yes?
Human behavior. Studied as conclusively and predicted as accurately as the weather.