Wear the uniform

I had an experience at the dentist today that was disconcerting. There is a rant coming here, so if you’re not in the mood, just click away. I won’t be hurt.

I will preface this by saying that the procedure I had today (sort of a fancy filling) went just fine. No pain. Very little blood. But an abundance of chest hair.

I wear jeans to work pretty often. I have that luxury, and I’m grateful. I work in technology. I am not a doctor. If you are a doctor, I’m here to tell you, you don’t have that luxury. Blame your father. Blame the system. I really don’t care. But you my friend, have to wear a lab coat. A crisp, white lab coat. I might let it slide if I pop in for a prescription. Or maybe if you’re an eye doctor. And PhDs – well, they’re PhDs. But if you are boring a hole in my skull, and drilling into my head with a diamond tipped scalpel, YOU HAVE TO WEAR A LAB COAT!

I know. You went to medical school. You have prestige. You think you understand the stock market. But when I look up and see you in a brown golf shirt and chinos, I:

A. Have very little confidence.
B. Can’t stop looking at your exposed chest hair and worrying about one falling into my cavity and causing an abscess.

Here’s the thing: We have certain expectations. I don’t want to see my doctor dressed like some schlep grilling Johnsonville Brats in the cul de sac. I don’t want to see my lawyer in a Speedo. Morticians don’t wear white. And if some day I end up in a midlife panic on a dude ranch, I don’t want to see my ranchhand wearing a pink jumpsuit. It’s not fair, I know. You should be able to wear whatever you want. Truthfully, I should be able to call my dad "Dave," but life just doesn’t work that way.

Seth Godin has a book coming out that talks about the story you tell. By your actions, your looks, your message. It has a tremendous impact. We need our doctors to look like chemists because we’re scared. I want firemen to carry an axe. Both have a story to tell, and it’s one of reassurance. Do soldiers march because it helps them kill the enemy? It’s a story, part of a role, and it’s an important one.

Sometimes we have a role to play, and it’s our responsibility to play that role.

I learned a lesson, you bet. When I’m in a role, and people are counting on me to do it right, I’m going to do what I am supposed to do. Not always what I want to do.

Ronald Reagan hated wearing neckties. But he never stepped foot into the Oval Office without one on. When someone asked him why he didn’t just dress as he pleased he said, "Well, it just wouldn’t be Presidential." Indeed.

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