I am sooo behind on blogging. My summer has been soooo much fun, but sometimes it is hard to get out and do all of that fun with work to do.
I’ve had my job at ARCADIS for less than a year, but I’m really enjoying it. Normally, I wouldn’t blog about work. If you’ve ever read dooce.com, you know that work and blogging typically does not mix (Long story short, this hilarious lady was fired for blogging at work in the oughts).
I’m really enjoying my boss, Megan. She is also the level-headed wife of an English Professor, so we have a few things in common. She is also my kickball captain. She has worked at ARCADIS for ten years now, and she does some pretty amazing things.
I liked my old job. I liked going in every day, and knowing I’d have two to five projects to create, modify, and maintain on a two-to-five year cycle. I was creating pieces of software that really helped people, and solving problems that probably only two or three other people on earth could fix — and then there was the day I wore patterned tights to work.
I was working with my old cubemate Allison, so this would have been 2006, maybe early 2007. It was an ordinary day, possibly early March, maybe October. I wore a pair of black suede calf-high flat boots with a courdoury skirt that flared to knee-height in the front and mid-calf in the back. Under the skirt, and only exposed from mid-calf to knee in the front, I wore a pair of patterned tights. They weren’t completely opaque tights, but they weren’t completely see-through either. The tights had a lacy pattern, and I got them at Target.
At 3PM, I get called up to the human resources lady. I figured I needed to sign some insurance paper or something. Then she asked me to close the door and sit down. I think it went something like this, “I’ve asked the accountant if he thinks fishnet stockings are appropriate work attire, and he doesn’t think they are. I agree with him.”
I was shocked! Two hours from COB is a little late in the day to send somebody home for a wardrobe violation. My shock continued, because I am a stickler for employee handbooks, and I was well aware that there was nothing in the handbook about tights/pantyhose/socks. I know this because when I started my job, the handbook had a stipulation about pantyhose; after the screws below my keyboard desk blew out two pairs in two days, I never wore them again and asked that the stipulation be taken out of the handbook (I was told it was not enforced). It was taken out of the handbook.
I asked which rule I was breaking, and pointed out the fact that I wore the very same skirt and boots combo to work for the past THREE YEARS. The patterned tights were the only thing that changed. The HR lady had no problems with my previous outfit, in fact, I did not have to go home, I just had to take off the tights. It took every ounce of will I had not to un-velcro my boots, whistle a bawdy song, and then fling the tights on the HR lady’s desk as I walked out the door.
I tried to appeal to her sense of logic, but she had none. She said, “If you have to think twice about whether something is appropriate for work in the morning, you shouldn’t wear it.” At this point I had worked for the company for eight years. I had never had a second thought wardrobe appropriateness, except for that one day where I had to go into the office to help out Japan at 2AM, put on a T-Shirt and jeans and the president chewed me out at 10AM for my dress. He told me to go home and change. I informed him I was going home to change into my pajamas as soon as I cleaned up somebody else’s mess in Japan. He apologized promptly.
There were no apologies from the HR lady. I asked her if there were other wardrobe guidelines that weren’t in the employee handbook. For instance, there was no stipulation about stirrup pants, and I could see them coming back into style soon in some form of leggings. I asked her if she wore these pants to work when the were in style in the 1990s and if she thought they would be appropriate for work.
Here’s the shocker, she did wear stirrup pants to work, considered them appropriate then, but wouldn’t consider them appropriate now. I asked her if she was thinking about adding that rule to the employee handbook. I also told her that when I go to the store to look for work clothes, even if the blouse is made of the finest silk, if it has a normal flat, round neck opening, I don’t buy it for work. “Collar or cleavage, I tell the sales ladies. You never call anyone in for that, and it appears to be the standard here.”
We were at an impasse. I told her that when she revised the handbook, I’d be happy to review it for her. At my old job, I was an exception handler. I was the person who had to figure out how the program would deal with every situation, so I didn’t get called in the middle of the night and the client didn’t lose millions of dollars. This is how I read employee handbooks. Maybe I should have been a patent lawyer.
I went back down to my cube, and preformed the most prudish strip tease in the world for my cubemate Allison: patterned tights on knees, patterned tights off knees. ALL KNEES ALL OF THE TIME! GET YOUR HOT NAKED KNEE ACTION HERE! I think I even kicked off my boots and complained to my old boss without shoes on (technically they were patterned shoes and I didn’t want to risk it).
Flash forward November 2009, my new boss Megan walks into work. She is wearing a black and white and pink striped turtleneck. As I see her walk down the hall I notice she is wearing a short black skirt and DA-DA-DUM-DA PATTERNED TIGHTS!
For her ten years of service to ARCADIS, I made her a blackberry pie to celebrate. I picked the blackberries myself, and cut out little shapes in the crust. From the top, clockwise, a star, a lightning bolt, her initials (MFE), another lightning bolt, the company logo (a fire salamander), another lightning bolt, “10″, another lightning bolt, with a cut-out star in the middle. I wanted the pie to symbolize how cool I think she is. Maybe it needed one more lighting bolt?