2013: When "self expression" completely demolished "decorum"

This Father's Day, I'm officially admitting that I'm a "prude".  While I'm at it, I'll also admit that I'm one of those people who doesn't really "get" most song lyrics and if you heard me sing (God forbid) a favorite song, there's no doubt I slaughter the lyrics.  I'll get to that in a minute...

Got a call yesterday from a guy who's a bartender at a local trendy restaurant that we often go to that really annoyed and bothered me.  It really rubbed me the wrong way.  Did something to the brain chemistry.  See, three weeks ago, my wife and I snuck away for some dinner and went to that place and, even thought it was the middle of the week, the only seating was at the bar.  This was fine with me because that means we're that much closer to the beer.  So, someway, somehow, I found out the twenty-something who was the bartender was really "into" vinyl records.  His big dilemma was that he couldn't find a reasonably priced stereo receiver that would accept the inputs from his record player.  Well guess what?  I have one collecting dust in my basement and I offered it to him for free.  AND THEN (!!!) he tells me that his uncle only lives a few blocks from me.  I could drop it off there.  No biggie.

This is where it gets ugly.  Even though unbeknownst to him what I was giving him cost around $500 a decade ago, it still has a street value of about $200 based on a quick search on eBay.  Regardless, I don't need it and he was a nice guy.  We exchanged cell phone numbers.  I wanted to confirm the thing was still in the basement (just in case the old age is really setting in) and went home and found it.  I snapped a few pictures of it and texted the to him.  He responded, "What brand?"  I responded.  Then, "What model?".  I responded.  I texted him back asking for his uncle's street address.  No reply.  The next day, I dialed his number and left him a voicemail asking if he still wanted it.  Nothing.

A week later, we had a Purple Heart pick-up at our house and I took the receiver out of the trunk of my car and stuck with the pile of other stuff we were donating.  By 10AM, our porch was clear.

The bartender called yesterday, this is THREE WEEKS LATER, and he had some more questions about the receiver.  I was brushing my teeth and did some whacky sign language to my wife and she told him I gave it away. 

There is no other way to start a monumental argument or threaten your credibility than to make a generalization about a particular generation of people, race, occupation, or whatever.  So I'll try my best to avoid that.  Allow me to just keep going with this with some observations on "decorum". 

Back to my lack of attention to lyrics.  There are a couple songs by Cee Lo Green that I find amusingly catchy and actually enjoy them in my nerdy kind of pop-culture way.  But I have to ask, does it strike anyone odd or does it border on respectfulness to hear that in 2012 at a campaign rally, Cee Lo Green sang his famous song "F You" with the original lyrics and finished off the song by flipping off the crowd?

I live in a fairly blue collar area of Detroit and people are pretty tough here.   It's not a poor area (per se) or ghetto.  Nothing like that.  But I've watched year after year as things just seem so depressing here.  You can drive around at any time and see some twenty-something walking down the street with his pants halfway down his butt and his underwear clearly on display.  A quick trip to the local market to grab a soda and it wouldn't be surprising the the guy ringing you up has dime-sized holes in his earlobes.  (Truthfully, I can't look.)  I've been to weddings and funerals here where people regularly attend in T-shirts and jeans (and possibly flip-flops for affect).  Apparently, there's no such thing as wearing shiny leather or patent leather shoes with a tuxedo to prom or your wedding.  A simple google search will reveal that there are 9 tattoo parlors in a three mile radius of my house. 

Tattoos bring on a whole other area of confusion for me.  It's not that I don't "like" them.  I'm just curious how paying someone else to draw cartoonish pictures all over your body is considered "self expression".  So now I divert to this whole notion of "self expression".  Today, it seemingly is some type of watered-down variation of "bra burning" from the '60's. 

I worked in corporate America for about 14 years before diverting into recruiting.  Again, maybe it's the old age, but I don't recall seeing people milling around these offices with tattoo "sleeves" and four letter words inked on their finger's knuckles.  Forgive me, I just wonder how this goes over in an interview.  I know one of our recruiters here has a friend who was a tech for a cable company and the company required him to wear long-sleeve shirts in front of customers to cover up his "tattoo sleeves".  He was fired.  Twice.

As outdated as it may seem, my family was at church this past Mother's Day and I consciously looked around and noticed that other than the mothers, everyone else was dressed like they were off to a picnic. 

I have further fascination regarding this "self expression" when it comes to music today.  God forbid there isn't some type of magnetic nuclear anomaly that would cause some type of power surge through earbuds.  We'd have a country full of deaf people.  I can only imagine that all the people around me walking, running, biking, driving, working, making coffee at the local coffee place, reading or watching their devices at the local coffee place, and on and on has created a society of individuals with their own theme music pumped directly into their skulls 24/7. 

T-shirts are now the new advertising norm to deliver your message of the day.  Though I have to admit I was tickled to laughter when reading about the Abercrombie & Fitch CEO made a complete fool of himself by proclaiming that his clothes were designed for "popular" people.  This only to prompt some guy to start a campaign to donate A&F attire to homeless people.  HAH!  Good one.

I don't know about you but in our recruiting office we tenderly coach our candidates to temper their "self expression" pitch in interviews.  Some bomb this.  Some can't seem to make it in a professional setting even a few minutes without diverting their speech to include the words "I", "me", and "my" as every third word in a sentence.

We google and 123people all the time to try to get a glimpse of the inner "self expression" world of our candidates.  I goofed on this a few years ago when my candidate showed for an interview for a "Account Manager" to call on General Motors.  It just so happens that the Account Manager spot would been his secondary occupation next to him be the bass player for a screamo (google it), death metal band.  HEY!  I'm not saying they didn't hire him because of he 24 inch rock hair or the dangling earring.  He did, after all, possess a BSME which was one of the requirements.  Let's just say he didn't come in first place. 

Here's a challenge.  Go on TMZ or Daily Mail and check out some of the popular celebrities.  Seems to me they're the one's setting the tone of self expression.  For females, long straight hair, a couple strategically placed tattoos, and humungous....uh....(I give up with this sentence).   Let's just say that if I don't have my reading glasses on, these ladies LOOK THE SAME TO ME.

The day after the Boston bombings, I flipped on the local rock station while getting ready for work.  Their morning show hosts rank in the top three in the Detroit area.  As usual, I turn the radio on and there's a commercial.  The shower is ready and I hop in.  Back to the show.  They bring on some guy who's "thinking about" finding himself a mail order bride.  I'm stuck listening to this garbage for the fastest ten minute shower in my life.

The fork is set on the napkin and the knife is to the right of the plate with the blade pointing toward the plate.  The spoon goes next to the knife.  When sitting down, you take the napkin and place it on your lap. 

If the little old lady or young lady for that matter is nearby when you come to the door, hold the door for them.  How about when you're inside and someone is coming in through the door out of the rain outside, they go first.  OK? 

At four way stops, everyone goes in order counter-clockwise. 

Women should go first.  Make sense?  How about this one?  Let the EMS guy, the cop, the fireman, or the guy in the fatigues in line go first.  Why not?

Am I living in a bubble?  Is this stuff only a cultural meltdown occurring in south Detroit?  Or is it everywhere?

One last story about the 28 year old guy working for $85,000 per year at General Motors.  Dragging it out of him so that I could get him to complete the application, he listed his residence.  See.  He lives with his mom and dad.  (Never mind the fact you can get a two bedroom house with a bath and a half here in a decent city with decent schools for about $80K.)  Anyway, he got the job offer from the German automotive supplier.  $95,000 plus guaranteed bonus as a Technical Liaison.  But then I found out that he was "DJ Extreme of the D".  Through some google sleuthing his DJ website opened with a homemade video of his handy-work mixing songs.  I could see that past the mixing board and him working away, doing his things, sporting his shades that you could notice the water pipes and studs of his parent's basement.  This was his promotional video.  He sent me an e-mail declining the job offer and explained that he couldn't do it because if he got news from the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas that they needed a DJ, he'd had to bail on the German company.  That was his exact reasoning.  I kid you not. 

I have to believe that someday soon the pendulum of "self expression" will swing the other way and people will start forgetting the desperate need to illustrate their uniqueness with superficial things.

Oh, yea.  And maybe one of my recruiters might actually get a "thank you" after the candidate's start date. 

Not holding my breath.

- Steve 

PS:  "Happy Father's Day!"  Hug your dad!

Views: 180

Comment by Daren Pedley on June 17, 2013 at 2:03am
Steve you aren't alone in your observations. If you haven't seen it already, you might like artofmanliness.com about the lost art of manners, decorum and generally great ways to be a good human being. Have a great week I hope your interviews turn to placements this week !

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