A while ago, Ellen explained how the men in black shoes and the right suits, control the world’s economy and who knows what else. It reminded me of the story of how I got that job in the Gold Building. I was pretty sure I had already shared this part of the story. I searched, but I couldn’t find it, so I think that lets me off the hook if I am repeating myself. Besides, I’m getting older. Follow this blog long enough and I’ll be repeating the same three posts every other week. My editor probably won’t remember either, she’ll just insert and remove the commas, “that’s” and other subjective grammatical corrections.
Yes, I know, “grammar isn’t subjective Dan and it isn’t optional” yeah yeah yeah.
Anyway, my story begins on a very bad day in Seattle, Washington. I, along with a few hundred coworkers, was laid off from Weyerhaeuser Company. This was blamed partly on the economy, home mortgage rates of 19-21% had stifled the housing market, and partly on Mt. St. Helens, whose eruption had damaged extensive swaths of Weyerhaeuser owned/leased forest land. All I remember is:
“Blah, blah, blah, you’re not going to work here anymore.”
We had been thinking of moving back east, so I started looking for employment opportunities in and around New York City. I arranged a couple of interviews. I made reservations (I did tell my travel story before) and I took my suits to the cleaners.
You should know that Seattle in general and Weyerhaeuser in particular were somewhat relaxed, with respect to fashion in 1981. I owned three suits: one light gray, one brown herringbone and one powder blue. All of them were 3-piece jobs, because I like vests. You need to see a skinny 6’2” (188 cm) kid in a powder blue 3-pc suit to know what “professional” looks like.
I was riding my motorcycle a lot at the time, so I didn’t try picking up my cleaning until well after the promised date. In fact, I waited until Friday afternoon of the week in which I was leaving on the Saturday red-eye for my week of interviews.
As I approached the parking lot, I saw a trailer in front of a pile of charred rubble where the dry cleaner had been. An insurance adjuster inside the trailer explained that the cleaner had been totally destroyed but that if I had my ticket he could help me. I handed him my ticket and he offered me $750 on the spot. If my shirts and suits were worth more, I’d have to file a claim.
I took the money.
It was too late to start shopping, but I was at Brooks Brother’s when they opened on Saturday morning. I explained my predicament. I needed two suits and a few shirts, and I needed them altered that day; a feat equivalent to obtaining a heart transplant before lunch. Still, the salesman seemed very interested in the $750 part of my story. He picked out a dark solid gray and a blue pinstripe suit. He added two white and two blue shirts, and two ties, at which point we had exceeded my insurance windfall.
Since my dress shoes at the time were brown, really, go read Ellen’s post, I walked across the street and bought the most expensive and most uncomfortable black shoes I’ve ever owned, while they altered my suits.
Too prevent an even longer story, I wore the blue pinstripe suit to my interview with Peat Marwick. The interview went well. I got the job.
A few months later, I had been asked to prepare a proposal to redesign the systems for a nearby school district. I drafted what I thought was a great proposal, which spoke of using recently developed systems design techniques, in which I had been trained 3 months before burning my suits.
The partner rejected my idea as being “too close to the leading edge for a school system.”
“Why not show them that we can bring cutting edge ideas to the engagement?”
“It will scare them. We have to use terms they understand.”
“I can help them to understand this. Trust me, this is what I do!”
“If you didn’t plan on letting me use the skillset I have to offer, why on earth did you hire me in the first place?”
He threw a copy of the New Partner brochure on the table. The cover was the headless chest of a man wearing a blue pinstripe suit, blue shirt and a red tie.
“I hired you because you looked like a consultant!”
“You hired me for my looks?”
“Yes. However, if I had paid attention to the way you walk, I wouldn’t have hired you.”
“What’s wrong with the way I walk?”
“You walk like an athlete.”
We submitted a same-old-same-old proposal. We did not get the engagement. I eventually bought comfortable shoes. To this day, I buy shoes that feel good, I’m not sure if I still walk like an athlete, or even how athletes walk. I never replaced the power blue suit.
Today’s photos are from a visit to Mt Rainier National Park in 1998. Faith and I walked like athletes during that visit.