We had a financial audit at work. Ronnie must have been worried. He dressed up. He even wore a tie for the auditor. That’s how it started. In a business where Sunday best is casual Friday attire to most, a tie is an anomaly.
He picked up on my sarcasm, grinned, and ignored me carrying on about how good he looked and how he brought up the class of the whole joint! He dismissed me with an amused smile and talked about how he used to wear a tie every day to work, 25 years ago, in another job. And after all, he was the company Accountant!
I droned on and on about how professional and competent he looked wearing a tie while the rest of us, the other 194 ragged, wretched employees, wore boots, old jeans and Carhart shirts. When I suggested he wear a tie the next Tuesday also, he pursed his lips and looked away, like he was deeply considering it. And why shouldn’t he? He was the Accountant and had garnered more attention from co-workers while wearing a tie for a day than he had the whole last year.So it shouldn’t have been a surprise when he wore a tie again the next Tuesday. That’s when Tie Tuesday was officially birthed. No audit, no funeral, no inspection, he just wore a tie.
Each week another co-worker and I rambled on about how classy he looked and how it made us all feel so good, so special. He’d narrow his eyes at us knowing we were knee-deep in hogwash, while the three ladies in the front office rolled their eyes during our sappy, insincere “compliments”. Yet we all had to admit, it was a nice change.
He wore a tie every Tuesday from then on, and usually a different one. He had a closet full of them!
We knew when Ronnie’s wife was out-of-town because she coordinated his fashion style by laying it out and telling him what did, and didn’t, match. When she was out of town on a Tuesday, however, Ronnie dressed himself. The colors may clash and the patterns not match. Yet he didn’t care in the least if he came to work looking like a blind clown — blue plaid short sleeve shirt, stretchy brown polyester pants, suspenders, black sandals, white socks and a Star Trek tie featuring Spock, McCoy and Captain Kirk.
It wasn’t that Ronnie wasn’t style conscious. He just didn’t care, which was part of what made it so unique, and even more fun. He was simply comfortable in his own skin, as his own person, and to Ronnie, it was all about the tie!
Each Tuesday the insincere compliments bloomed from a bouquet of sarcastic fun into something that wasn’t met with insincere jokes. In fact, it became real, genuine, authentic. It became an indisputable tradition, observed by one, that was fun for the rest us to share. He truly was set apart from the way most of us slouched around the office.
Five years. Every week. Tie Tuesday.
Five years. Every week. Tie compliments.
The last couple of years, every Tuesday, I took a picture.
He turned seventy last year and announced a retirement day. In response to our special request, he wore a tie on his last day of work, even though it wasn’t a Tuesday. Ronnie showed up in a tie that said, “RETIRED. Under new management. See spouse for details.”
Half a dozen of us, for the first, and last time, wore ties to work too. When he saw us in ties, he was visibly moved. A smile spread across his face and his eyes became misty red. Awkward silence was broken by a couple of court jester mild insults back and forth about our ties. But to Ronnie, we truly say, “Hear, hear! Long live the Tie King!”
After a lunch in his honor, out came a retirement cake decorated with a shirt, suspenders, and of course, a tie. We reminisced, shared memories from over the years and told funny stories.
A little later, Tie King walked out the door for the last time.
Life changes. It doesn’t stay the same. Time moves forward. People grace our lives. People leave our lives.
And you know, we usually have, probably even need, habits. Habits stay the same. They keep us on an even keel when everything else is moving, changing. And traditions are simply habits with meaning or significance.
Maybe it sounds silly, maybe even weird, but in my little world, Tie Tuesday was a tradition. It gave a sense of stability, sameness, consistency to otherwise normal, but chaotic Tuesdays.
Now Tuesdays come and Ronnie isn’t here. We’re happy for him to embrace a new phase of life in his golden years, but for those of us used to something consistent, something as traditional as Tie Tuesday, it’s also sad. Deeply sad.
Isn’t it odd that the older we get the more little things matter? Early in life grief is usually associated with death, but later in life, grief grows and expands to include a sense of loss over even the smallest, ordinary things.
We wonder what happened to an old friend, reminisce about when the kids were little, and ponder our childhood memories. The smell of hot banana bread can bring back specific warm feelings, and it seems sentimental to even throw away a favorite worn out pair of shoes. Maybe it’s part of aging, or maybe part of wisdom, but the older you get it seems that losing even little things, consistencies, traditions, it seems to create a sense of loss.
Truly more people will grace our life, yet truly more people will leave too. And with every change, with every person who moves on, there is that, that loss.
Times do change, and the harder you try to grab time and hold onto the moments, the more time squirts out between your fingers.
No one wears a tie on Tuesday anymore. No one stops to look. No one takes a picture. There isn’t bantering or comradery surrounding a long piece of cloth around a man’s neck.
We do sometimes, however, discuss who might retire next.
Maybe that’s it. Maybe in one form or fashion time squeezes out from between the fingers and each day brings us that much closer to walking out the door for the last time also.
I don’t know.
I do know Tuesdays are not, nor never will be, quite the same. Long live the Tie King!