So I walk into the building for a meeting with our new banker in Baltimore, and I notice that everyone seems to be unusually surly towards me. The security guard tells me to take off my hat, and when I tell him who I want to meet with, he motions me toward a row of chairs and then ignores me for a while. When the banker does approach, she is unfriendly and distracted: She tells me that, although she would love to help me, she does not want to be late for her 4:00 o’clock meeting.
I am wearing a ratty baseball hat and T-shirt, and I am sweaty from the walk over from our house. I am her 4:00 o’clock meeting.
I had a similar experience years ago spending time with an older cousin. Although my cousin was well educated and had a respectable job, he did bear an uncanny resemblance to the type of person who might ask you for a quarter on the street. I remember how salespeople cringed whenever we entered a respectable establishment. At the same time, we tended to be very popular in other settings – the parking lot of a 7-11, for example. In those cases, it was like that Seinfeld episode in which George starts to date a model and discovers that there is a whole other world – completely unknown to him theretofore – of good-looking people having more fun than the rest of us.
The next time I go to the bank, I think I am going to wear my suit. With snobbery a given, that’s the world I want to belong to.