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A semester of a coat and a tie

Topics/tags: Autobiographical, rambly [1]

Today was the last day of classes of the semester. As best I recall, I wore a coat and a tie every work day of the semester [2]. But it’s almost certainly time to stop. It’s one thing to wear a coat and a tie [3] when it’s winter or early spring. It’s another when my classroom is generally at or above 75 degrees Fahrenheit and I generally have an exothermic metabolism.

Why did I wear a coat and tie each day? I recall making the decision to wear a coat and tie at the beginning of the semester, but I can’t recall the rationale.

One reason might have been so that I could more regularly make one of my favorite dad jokes: Why are you wearing a tie? I find the world much more pleasant when I decrease the flow of oxygen to my brain. But I have a large enough repertoire of dad jokes that I don’t really need an excuse to add another one.

Another might have been that I wanted to provide a contrast to my hair, which is now over a foot long, curly, and sometimes slightly matted, and to my beard, which makes my hair look neat. My subconscious might have suggested to me that people treat someone with wild hair differently when they are in a coat and tie. I don’t recall making that decision consciously. But, hey, I forget things.

Or perhaps it was in reaction to my decision to move forward about my blue coat. What about my blue coat? I used to have a blue coat that I loved. But in my rush to leave the AP grading on my birthday last summer I managed to leave it and some shirts behind. The hotel promised to send them to me, but but never did. By the time it came back to mind, it seemed too late to check again. I didn’t mind losing the coat so much; it’s relatively easy to replace a coat. But I minded losing my ties. I’d brought my college calculus course tie, the tie that goes with my double-breasted suit [4], and a few others. It took me awhile to accept giving those ties up for lost. Eventually, I said to myself That’s okay, you can find other interesting ties. And so I went bargain tie shopping [5]. So perhaps I was wearing those new ties as a followup. Or perhaps I was wearing ties as an excuse to get more ties.

The good news is that midway through spring semester, I found a packet of ties on top of my dresser. It appears that I did bring some of my ties back from the AP reading, including the calculus tie and the one that goes with the suit. I may have lost others, but it’s unlikely that they matter as much [6].

Somewhere through this musing, I said to myself It’s okay that you don’t remember exactly why you chose to wear a coat and a tie each day; you mused about this topic at the start of the semester. That will tell you why. Let’s see … what did I write?

Every five or so years, I decide to wear a sport coat and tie to work each day. There’s usually no particular motivating factor; something in my brain says You should wear a coat and a tie. I like ties; I can wear bright and flashy things and I get to cut off the flow of oxygen to my brain. I find life more pleasant that way.

I’m always interested to hear how people react. Are you meeting with someone? Nope, I just decided to wear a coat and tie. Why are you wearing a suit? I’m not. It’s a sport coat. What’s the special occasion? There isn’t one.

Um … I guess there wasn’t a reason. My subconscious was just telling me to do so.

I’m still interested to hear how people react. I wore the coat and tie every day I was at work this semester [8]. But as recently as last week, people asked me whether I had a special meeting [9] and someone else called me dapper. I have trouble thinking of myself as dapper. I much prefer the comment that someone made yesterday: Sam, you look kempt. That, I’ll accept.

Will I repeat this practice? Almost certainly. I’m debating whether I’ll wear a coat and a tie when I’m doing my fellowship at UIowa. It strikes me that having that style would be appropriate there. I’m not sure whether or not I’ll have the energy to continue the practice next spring. We shall see.

Postscript: In addition to being the last day of the semester, today is the 39th anniversary of my father’s death. My father had the kind of job that normally expects ties [10]; I’m pretty sure that he did not wear them regularly. Male faculty rarely wear ties [11]. I’ve been wearing one every day. I don’t know what to make of that.

[1] I had orignally tagged this as short, rambly. I then asked Can a musing be both short and rambly? I also answered We shall see. In the end, the musing wasn’t as short as I planned. But it remained about as rambly as I expected. It still remains to be seen whether I can write a short and rambly musing.

[2] There was one week day that I spent home in bed. I didn’t put on a coat and a tie. But I don’t count a sick day as a work day.

[3] And a button down shirt and an undershirt.

[4] I don’t currently fit in my double-breasted suit. But when I do, I have a tie that works perfectly. I use it for other reasons, too.

[5] Most of my favorite ties came from a sale rack that I visited whenever I went to DC to review grants for the NSF. I think they were something like 3 for $30. But the program no longer uses that hotel and I don’t review grants as much. These days, I find the ties that I like at Goodwill; given my penchant for strange patterns, I assume that I save most of my ties from the we’ve had it for more than three months; it’s time to discard it bin.

[6] Hopefully, I won’t now realize that I’m missing another special tie. The tie I care most about is a tie of my father’s that is black except for one rainbow-colored line; I call it his Pink Floyd tie because it looks like the right side of Dark Side of the Moon. The tie is a little small for me, but it’s special to me. Of course, I currently have no idea where that tie is [7], but I’m pretty sure that it didn’t go with me to the reading.

[7] The kids sometimes borrow it. Ties also seem to migrate around our closet.

[8] I also wore the coat and tie at SIGCSE. I’m not sure whether or not that counts as at work. I tried wearing them during the first day of spring break, when we visited Harvey Mudd. The coat and tie were a bit warm for California weather.

[9] One of my thoughtful colleagues suggested a response: Yes, Im meeting a lot of special people; I’m teaching today." or Yes, I’m meeting my students.

[10] Toward the end of his life, he was a VP at Polaroid.

[11] I’d say that less than one in ten of my male colleagues in the sciences seems to wear a tie each day.

Version 1.0 of 2018-05-11.