ODE TO A DRESS CODE by Joanne Leary, Cornell University
This is the tale of Sir Samuel Smithers
An impeccable gent, from his feet to his withers;
Of regal deportment (though not really handsome),
In the matter of dressing, he looked a King’s Ransom.
They say, when a youth, he’d made a decision
To dress with unfailing geometric precision;
With finery fit for the poshest profession,
With elegance marked by Good Taste and Discretion.
His trousers, therefore, were items exalted;
And as for his socks — well, they couldn’t be faulted.
Gorgeous in gaiters and spotless in spats,
With wing-collared shirts, and silken cravats,
(Secured with a filigreed stick-pin of garnet)
Sir Samuel truly was Fashion incarnate.
I saw him attired thus — Where, you may ask?
The Ambassador’s Ball, or the Queen Mother’s Masque?
Charming the ladies with sallies of wit,
Or trying his talent with bridle and bit?
Flicking the dust from the sleeve of his coat,
While sipping champagne on a fifty-foot boat?
Alas, poor old Smithers was far from blue waters,
And light-years from dowager heiresses’ daughters.
Rather than hunting the foxes with gentry,
I saw him performing the duties of Sentry.
Specifically, checking the bookbags of patrons
And answering “Where is the Restroom?” of matrons.
Sir Samuel: “Library Page, Level III”
Was, in fact, what this fellow had turned out to be.
His duties included such dusty excesses
As gathering books from the deepest recesses:
From Reference, and Storage, and even Locked Press,
But never once did he abandon his dress.
I mused, while I watched him service a copier,
This man’s got a job that couldn’t be sloppier!
To remedy ravages wrought by the grime
Could hardly come cheaply in money or time…
I admired his stalwart and lofty ideals;
But wondered, where got he the money for meals?
Curiosity conquered my shyness at last,
And I ventured to ask, in a hush, as he passed:
“Sir Samuel, tarry a moment and tell,
How it comes that you dress so uncommonly well?
The dirt, sir… I mean, all that upkeep and such —
I’m sure you don’t earn… well, not terribly much.”
He stood there a moment, then spoke, sounding tired:
“I do this, you see, because it’s required.”
He paused again briefly, to let it sink in;
Then continued his tale, but now with a grin:
“But kid, let me tell you, there’s more to the action;
The truth is, by God, I get satisfaction!
The job’s rather meagre, as might be suspected;
But dressing this way, I find I’m respected!”
The dress code, you see, is a double-edged sword;
A burden, on one hand, and yet a reward.
Sir Samuel showed there are wheels within wheels.
(But still I can’t see how he comes by his meals.)
(Sourced from an e-mail bouncing off the world wide web)