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Monday, December 6, 2010

Tie One On

There is not a single card left at the Hallmark store and it is only December 5. It's a popular holiday, I know, but this year it seems as if everyone is going all out in celebration. But what's not to like about parading around in gaudy costume? Oh, what? You don’t think it's proper to celebrate Christmas that way? Good. I don't either. But we are talking about National Tie Month. I thought you knew.

And I have ties. Not that I wear them much anymore, but they are still in my closet. Here are a few that I brought out for the festivities:

My favorites are the Yellow Submarine and Calculator ties. However, the orange one is perhaps the most meaningful as I wore it at both daughters' weddings. And the one in back on the right is a "Magic Eye" tie. That one got a lot of people staring at me with their eyes crossed!

My life in ties, much abbreviated, went something like this:

When I was younger - that covers a lot of territory, of course - we could fly for free as my father worked for TACA Airlines in New Orleans. At the time, TACA only flew into Central America so we would use "Interline" passes for travel to places to which we actually wanted to go. We would dress up for these flights, since we were guests, most often on Braniff Airlines flights. And, as a guest, you put on your best. And behaved yourself. And were generally appreciative of the offer of free passage. Rules articulated before each trip by my father. Now I was SO young, that dressing up did not include wearing a tie. But my father did.

Eventually I got old enough to wear ties while traveling and did so for many years, including quite a few after it was nearly mandatory. Now it seems anything goes, up to and including tank tops and flip flops. There ought to be a law. But I finally gave in to going tieless, although I try to keep it at no more informal than “neat casual.”

The first tie I remember getting was when I was in seventh grade. We had just moved to Jacksonville Beach and my mother thought it would be a good idea to sign me up for the cotillion. I would learn to dance and meet people. What’s not to like about that for a seventh grader who’d been contemplating the idea of spending all day, every day of the summer on the beach?

The high school years are a bit fuzzy when it comes to ties. I suppose I wore one at some of the more “formal” social functions, but there isn’t some tie-related event that comes to mind. Same with college except for my senior year. When it came time for job interviews on campus, I went to the Rich’s store in downtown Atlanta (something you can’t do anymore, thanks to Macy’s). I got a suit, a tie, and a job. Must be something to the dressing up thing.

I probably had a few ties when we moved to Connecticut for my first job with Pratt & Whitney. This was the domain of white shirts, dark ties and pocket protectors and calls to mind an entry on the list of the shortest books ever written: Fashion for Engineers. But rebel that I am, it seemed that an attack on the system was warranted. So Shirley began making ties to order – wide enough to use as a lobster bib and in all manner of colors and patterns. One in particular that I remember was a red-white-and-blue number. Take THAT, establishment!

But time passed and I moved on, ending up here in the upper Midwest; Wisconsin, to be exact. And I brought my advanced East Coast style concepts with me. Things here were, of course, years behind and it fell upon my well-garbed shoulders to get them up to speed. How did I accomplish this? Well it was with a green and cream plaid leisure suit, worn with a dark shirt and bow tie. I won’t even mention the shoes, but I will tell you that I will be forever grateful that these is no photographic evidence of what I have just revealed. You should be too.

Of course we all know how this story comes out. Every day ties are rare indeed these days. The transition wasn’t easy for many, but there are few holdouts. Politicians and executives seem to need to “power up,” but for the rest of us, casual and comfortable work just fine. There are special occasions though. And just to prove I can still do it, here is a photo of me at a recent conference in Germany:

And no treatise on ties, at least not any that I write, would be complete without this story. And let me say that this will be the LAST time I relate this. It has been my great privilege to know and have been taught by O.Univ.Prof. i.R. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.techn. Laurenz Rinder of the Technical University of Vienna. And let me say he deserves every one of those titles. Here he is at the conference:

Years ago, Professor Rinder came to La Crosse for several months to help us understand some of the intricacies of designing screw compressor rotors, something we had just begun working on. One Saturday I was planning on laying sod around our newly finished addition and I asked Laurenz if he’d like to come over and help. He agreed. So, bright and early on Saturday, he showed up wearing a lab coat. Over his white shirt. And tie. Which he kept on during the entire morning of sod-laying.

So why is this the last time telling this story? There is a now-traditional (I’ve been attending this conference since 1987) post-conference dinner hosted by friends Professor Knut and Dörte Kauder at their home. A few of the regulars were missing this year, but there were some new faces around the table. So, during the witty repartee that only engineers can sustain, I announced that I had this story about Laurenz. He looked at me and said, “The one about the tie?” I guess maybe I’ve told it one too many times.

Here we are enjoying ourselves at Knute and Dörte's. This was BEFORE I told the story.

Just so you won't be left hanging, this is the Rest of the Story about the leisure suit. I wore it in San Francisco while there on a business trip. In the evening, a group of us were walking to Chinatown in search of a restaurant. To get there, we had to run a gauntlet of bars and strip clubs, each with a hawker out front, calling to us to come in and check thing out. One of them looked at me and said, "Nice suit." And that, my friends, was the last time I ever wore it. No. I will not tell you about the shoes. Every time I think about that outfit, I feel the need to tie one on. It was that bad.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah, the ties that bind . . . !