I stopped in a fast-food restaurant this week for a giant sweet tea, and while I waited in line I saw a girl in her early 20s filling out a job application.
I inadvertently stared at her for too long, and she took notice.
“Why are you staring at me?” she challenged.
I apologized and looked away, but it wasn’t good enough.
“No, why are you lookin’ at me, (expletive)” she demanded.
“You want to know? OK, I’ll tell you. You’re here at (restaurant) applying for a job. Your hair is a mess, you have a smear of dirt or something along your face, and you’re wearing pajamas and slippers. What makes you think you’re going to make a good first impression?”
I’m not going to repeat her “ladylike” response, but I will add that the manager on duty and I exchanged a glance that told me this little girl was not getting a job.
It amazes me when I go in public and see so many people wearing their pajamas.
It’s also disturbing.
I am not a fashion-following trendsetter. In fact, yesterday I wore a shirt that I’ve had for 26 years — I got it for Christmas when I was a freshman in high school.
But my parents raised me to dress appropriately for the situation.
When we went to church, the ladies wore dresses and the men wore suits and ties.
The same was said for both weddings and funerals.
Job interviews would also fall into this category, as would court appearances.
Even a trip to the store required some care and consideration when getting dressed.
But not any more.
I sit in courtrooms where people are wearing dirty clothes, low-cut tops, ball caps and sporting greasy, filthy hair — granted, not all those who appear in court rolled out of bed and put on what they fell on.
But when there’s no obvious self-respect, respect certainly cannot be offered.
I’ve had to interview people for jobs in the past, some in the restaurant business, and some in the news business.
When I worked for a restaurant and had to hire an employee, I never expected to see suits, ties or dresses.
However, I did expect cleanliness, good hygiene, decent manners and a willing spirit.
When I did interview in the news, I did expect an effort be made to impress me.
But I can say I have been dressed inappropriately, although in my defense it was completely inadvertent.
I took my Aunt Linda from Harrisburg, Penn. and a friend to my cousin Jackie’s wedding.
It was a beautiful ceremony, and the reception was slated to be held at a country club.
Not one to ever enjoy a suit and a tie, I figured the reception was going to be a more relaxed affair.
So here we went, off to this fancy borderline black-tie shindig, and we looked like we were ready to mow the grass in comparison.
I was so embarrassed, but figured it was family so it was all OK.
Another time, when going door to door begging for a job when I lived out west, I was so desperate I didn’t pay attention to what I had on. I had returned from a three-week trip to my folks in Virginia to find out the restaurant I worked for had closed its doors New Year’s Eve.
I found out by showing for my regular shift and reading the handwritten sign taped to the door.
I was in a pair of well-worn khakis, an old white shirt, and the expected apron.
So there I went, in a panic because I was down to my last 10 bucks. I started by dropping in on the business next door. Thirty-one businesses and a lot of funny looks later, I entered a well-known chain restaurant and begged yet again for a job.
“Heck, you’re already halfway into our uniform here, so why don’t we get started right now,” she had said.
That’s when I realized why I was met with so many funny looks.
Look, I’m a firm believer in dressing comfortably. My ideal clothes are pajamas and a long bathrobe.
But I never leave the house with the intent of going in public wearing those PJs and robe — no matter how awesome I think they feel. Yes, I will go out my front door in the yard in a robe and PJs, which will also get me looks.
But I figure when I’m mowing grass in shorts without a shirt, I’m wearing a lot less than when I’m in a robe and PJs.
But it’s all about perception — after all, perception is reality. If I observe you out and about in your pajamas and slippers, I’m going to perceive you’re a lazy slob with no self-respect.
Your perception may not match, but again, perception is reality.
Reporter John Ross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.