Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hippie Day

Well, it’s “Hippie Day” here at Cubicle Central, a.k.a., my workplace. You see, this is “Employee Appreciation Week” and each day has a different theme (can you feel the excitement...NOT). Monday was Dress Like Your Favorite Sports Team Day, Tuesday was Tropical Day, Wednesday was Western Day, today is Hippie Day and Friday is Patriotic Day. It’s a fascinating sociological study to observe how excited my co-workers get about the littlest things during this week, such as the daily bingo drawing (you could win a gift card at the end of the week to a corn syrup, wheat, and factory-farmed meat dispensary, a.k.a., a fast food restaurant—be still my heart again—NOT), and how all out they go with the various costume opportunities. I have never really understood it, I mean, how into “Western Day” can one be? It’s like how into it they get over every little potluck or birthday party that involves food, much like the office culture depicted in the classic “Seinfeld” episode that featured the 4:00 o’clock cake parties at Elaine’s office. I can never usually understand how cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs my co-workers go over such things, any more than Elaine could understand her co-workers crazed excitement for the 4:00 o'clock cake parties (until she herself got sugar-addicted from them *tee HEE*), but today, for the first time in the 11 years I’ve worked here, I am finally passionately INTO one of these theme days. Because today, for the first time in 11 years, I get to be MYSELF at work! While some who are festooned in hippie garb today were not even born in the sixties, and most others just look at it as a fun opportunity to “dress up” (or down, as the case may be) in a sort of exaggerated costume, for me, this is not a costume. This is a rare chance to let the real me out at work! Flowerchild ALERT!

True, I was just a child in the late 60’s, so in that sense, I wasn’t one of the original hippies. Yet the Baby Boom was a loooooooooooooooooong generation (including all those born from 1946 through 1964), and the thinking now among scholars who study such things is that there were two distinct “cohorts” within the Boom, Cohort 1 being the early Boomers and Cohort 2 being us “Late Boomers” such as myself, but any way you slice it, I’m still a Boomer, for better or worse, and I can’t stand when some other camps who study such things try to summarily extricate me from my generation and stick me in a separate generation (“Generation Jones”). No, I’m a Boomer, baby, even though I’m certainly not ready for all the ads for adult diapers and anti-graying hair dye and retirement funds that they are clearly directed at Boomers these days. Don’t rush me, I am not there yet and neither is over half of our generation! But I digress (I could talk all day about the fascinating intricacies of the Baby Boomer generation, but maybe in a future blog). My point is that I am, in fact, a card-carrying, authentic Boomer, even though I arrived at the tail end of the Boom, and my “cohort” had our issues and protests, too, and I want to talk about “Hippie Day”, and about how, as I was prepping my garb last night in ridonkulously excited anticipation, decking out one of my many tie-dyed shirts with political buttons I’ve been saving since “back in the day” (which for my Late Boomer “Cohort 2” was actually the ‘70’s and the ‘80’s) the following blog-inspiring fact was brought home to me: Wow, most of these buttons reflect issues that are still relevant, controversial, and “hot button” (no pun intended) today. Nothing has changed! We haven’t moved off a dime on “The Big One” to me, namely: going green. That is DEPRESSING.

Normally, wearing political buttons is strictly verboten in my workplace, so I was a little (okay, more than a little) nervous about sporting them today, even though “Hippie Day” came down from on high (a.k.a., our Human Resources Department and/or upper management) and they told us, in writing, that “Hippie Day - the 60's will be alive again: bell bottoms, tie dye shirts, etc.” Well, to me, “etc.” clearly includes POLITICAL BUTTONS because, I have news for them: being a hippie was not just about tie-dyed shirts and long hair, it was very much a political thing, marching in the streets, “ETC.” So I take the “etc.” to mean: “Peppermint Twist, this is your one chance in the 11 years you’ve worked here to EXPRESS YOURSELF”. Mind you, I left some of the more militant and/or more specific political buttons safely tucked away at home. I didn’t want to give some of the radcons around here a heart attack. But even the buttons I have chosen to sport, I was a little nervous about, in terms of: will wearing these get me fired, even on employer-sanctioned “Hippie Day”?

Why did I worry about that? Precisely because the buttons are still so topical and so threatening to people, even though they are all just really about peace, living in harmony with nature, and all that good jazz. So far, though, everyone has really seemed to “dig” my outfit (maybe they don’t realize this isn’t a fun costume for me, this is really who I am, and since they think I’m just “dressing up”, they don’t feel threatened by it), even one person who is on the extreme right. He did mention that he could kill me and no one would ever find the body, but I chose to take that in the best possible light! Seriously, he was a good sport about it, and I know it is hard for him to suffer through “Hippie Day”. It would be like me suffering through “Tea Party Day” (unless it was a real tea party, now THAT I could get into, as I’m all about tea...but again I digress), if they had such a thing, which mercifully they don’t. Then again, every day around here is like Tea Party Day, but let’s not go there.

It just blows my mind, to use a phrase from back in the day, how relevant all these buttons still are. I mean, okay, not the one that says “US/USSR Nuclear Weapons Freeze” and the other ones about the arms race/cold war specifically, but all the ones about going green are still so avant-garde today, yet they shouldn’t be! It upsets me to no end that I can pull out these dusty old buttons from THIRTY YEARS AGO that say things like “Rescue the Rain Forests” and “Solar Employs, Nuclear Destroys” and realize that we are still fighting to get people to understand and implement these things. I should be able to pull out these old buttons and think with a smile, “Wow, remember when we had to fight to get people to understand how important the rain forests are and that nuclear power is NOT “safe and clean”? Remember waaaaaay back before we went to solar and wind power? The fossil fuel era seems so primitive and long ago now! If I didn’t have these buttons, I would never believe I actually lived through it.”

But instead: here we STILL are, thirty years later, deeply entrenched in the fossil fuel era, oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico as we speak from a “safe and clean” new oil rig, a president advocating for more “safe and clean” new nuclear plants. Oh, and he’s a big proponent of “clean coal”, too. How, in 2010, can anyone’s idea of going green be to build more nuclear plants and work on the mythical “clean coal” technology? What we really need is to go to TRULY clean, safe, renewable, sustainable energy, such as and specifically SOLAR AND WIND. We should have done this THIRTY YEARS AGO! Why are my dusty old political buttons still relevant today? Why are they still so controversial that I have to have even a fleeting worry about getting fired for sporting them? This is madness! I want them to be archaic, not relevant! I want them to be a sweet, poignant, gratitude-inducing reminder of lessons learned, of how the human race was waaaaaaaaay back BEFORE we turned away from our earth-destroying ways and turned towards respect for our planet. Instead, they are still as “hot button” and avant-garde as ever. I could have stood up when President Obama recently advocated “clean coal” and new nuclear power plants and shouted “Solar employs, nuclear destroys!”, and it would be just as relevant, almost as radical, and certainly even MORE urgent, than it was THIRTY YEARS AGO. Bummer, maaaaaaaaaan.

“I’d hate to think it was all just fashion.”
- A great line from the film “The Big Chill”. -

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