Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Children and Bow Ties

I love to see children’s faces when they look at my bow tie. You can see the quizzical look as they grapple with the tie’s unconventional appearance, and you can almost make out their lips as they say, “Hey, buddy, get a life. What’s with that thing under your chin?” Well, I should heed my little friends’ wisdom and think about changing to traditional ties. This all came through loud and clear to me one day . . .

The Head of the Middle School and I were standing by the front door one morning, greeting parents and children, when I noticed two behemoth sanitation trucks parked where our buses pull up to the curb to drop off our children. Knowing that the trucks' drivers were probably around the corner in Bagel World, I said to my colleague that I would be right back. As I trundled around the corner, I did give thought to the fact that I was wearing a bow tie and my sanitation engineer friends might not take kindly to my interrupting their coffee break with an irksome request. Anyway, I moved toward the entrance to Bagel World and was caught short as soon as I stepped into the shop. Directly to my left, sitting at the corner table, were four men clad in green NYC Sanitation Department sweatshirts; they were engrossed in conversation, enjoying their morning coffee and breakfast treats. “Excuse me,” I said in a somewhat squeaky voice. “Could you move your trucks? They’re blocking the area where our busses drop off our children.”

It was the hefty, buzz-cut gentleman who looked at me and mumbled “&*$@#”
- which I think meant something like what my young friends were trying to tell me. I backed away and smiled, hoping that they took me seriously and moved their vehicles. I sauntered back to my station to continue my greeting duties. As I explained my experience to Bill, our facilities manager, he made very clear to me in a fatherly way but with a chuckle, “Dane, bow tie or no bow tie, this is New York. You have to speak up if you want something done.”

They did send the junior member of the crew out to move one of the trucks. I chalked up their response to the fact that because children were involved, they did acquiesce to my appeal. In the end, I did resolve to continue to wear bow ties because I like them; give greater credence to the advice of my little friends; and send Bill the next time a message needs to be sent to a sanitation crew.

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