I Am Your 4:00 O’Clock Appointment

by Jamison Koehler on July 12, 2013

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.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff Gamso July 12, 2013 at 4:40 am

I always wear a suit the first time I go to see a doctor, and never go to see one wearing the kinds of clothes I’m most comfortable hanging around in. Same principle. I think I get taken more seriously.

Back in the days when I was teaching English at college, a young colleague told me that when she wanted class discussion she wore jeans. When she wanted to lecture, she wore a skirt and blouse or a dress. Same principle.

Jamison Koehler July 12, 2013 at 4:56 am

Interesting. I remember going to a presentation in which the lecturer was wearing a baseball cap with a ponytail sticking out the back. Halfway through the lecture, he took off the baseball hat and put it on the lecturn next to him. It turned out that the ponytail came off with the hat.

Although he never said anything about this, I am sure he did this on purpose. I was amazed at how my perspective of him changed based solely on whether or not he had a ponytail.

Geneva Yelle July 12, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Hence there is the saying, “Never judge a book by its cover.” When our elderly mother had plumbing problems and it took Karl’s Excavating crew three tries to fix it, another man who had come earlier to try to fix the same problem said to me, “You know, they might have fixed it the first time if you were a man.” So tell me, dear brother, how am I supposed to dress?

Jamison Koehler July 12, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Tough luck, Geneva: No matter how you dress, nobody is ever going to mistake you for a man.

Jon Katz July 16, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Hi, Jamison-

The following abbot has me convinced to his view:

http://spiritual-minds.com/stories/zen.htm
A Zen abbot went dressed in rags to the door of a rich man and was turned away with an empty bowl. So he returned in his formal robe of office and was invited in and served a sumptuous meal.
Removing his robe and folding it, he placed it on front of the feast and departed with the words, “This meal is not for me; it is for the robe.”

Be well. Jon

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