Society may be going to hell in a handbag (yes, I know it’s “handbasket”, but I took the liberty of altering the saying slightly to reflect these modern times — and besides, what the heck is a “handbasket”, anyway?), but in one respect it’s managed to retain an old-fashioned respectability: in signage pardoning the appearance of buildings undergoing construction or renovation.
“Please pardon our appearance,” a store apologizes in its front window, alerting potential customers to the mess. This is the equivalent of going to someone’s house, and, as always seems to be the case, the person apologizes for the shambles, either real or perceived. “Excuse the mess.”
Many years ago, I worked as a temp in Philadelphia, and one of the positions was in a supposedly prestigious law firm. Of course all law firms think they’re prestigious, but this one had an air of self-importance that exceeded many with which I’d come into contact. However, since it didn’t want to come off as too stuffy, its management declared Fridays as “Jeans Day”. Not “Casual Friday.” Jeans Day. (Apparently they weren’t aware of the delight of alliteration; otherwise, they would have taken advantage of it and proclaimed the day “Denim Day”.)
The firm was entirely too self-conscious about its undertaking. Instead of just wearing jeans and going about the business of the day, the firm had to place a large polished wood plaque on the very prominent reception station stating, in bold brass letters, “Friday is Jeans Day at Schmuck & Schmoe” (the name of the firm has been changed to reflect the nature of its true identity). Just so visitors to the otherwise fairly posh office wouldn’t take one look around the place, witness a handful of pancake-assed lawyers decked out in disastrous denim, and think, “My god. What a bunch of schlubs.”
If the firm were truly comfortable with granting its employees this small comfort, it wouldn’t have felt the need for the sign. I drooled over my own daydream of replacing that sign with one of my own creation, fashioned out of the same polished wood, with letters just as boldly brass, stating, “Yes, we are fucking slobs. And if you think this is bad, you should see us Monday through Thursday.”