The shirt off my back

“Are you guys wearing your shirts? Those shirts are mandatory, guys.”

I’ve always tried to avoid wearing company-supplied shirts. They’re usually uncomfortable, too fucking hot in the summer and scratchy in the winter. But today someone has finally noticed that I’m not wearing mine, and now it’s an issue.

“I’m wearing a sweater. It’s too cold outside, and you can’t see it under my jacket anyway,” I protest.

“Wear it under the jacket, then,” he replies. I get it: he wants me to buy some thermal shirts and wear the company uniform on top. It’s not going to happen. I’m not investing another nickel in this contract position, other than what it takes to keep my car running. Charging me for the shirts was bad enough.

“Yeah, sure,” I say. I’m happy with my usual winter work outfit, my father’s old army field jacket and a welder’s toboggan cap with a large grease stain on the front of it. I look like a mix of Travis Bickle, Oddball from “Kelly’s Heroes” and the guy you see on the street corner holding the cardboard sign. Not that the delivery clients care anyway. I could ride up on a rusty bicycle in a blood-soaked clown costume with Charles Manson’s swastika carved into my forehead, and all they’d be looking for is the bright blue bag full of magic pills I’ve got in my hand.

“What’s with all the negative waves, man?” The manager (I guess that’s his title. I’m not technically an employee, so who knows?) just gives me a weird look and goes back to looking at his computer. I finish loading up my deliveries and head out the door, still minus the company shirt.

I think the shirt makes my job harder, the company’s obsession with self-promotion notwithstanding. My “homeless chic” wardrobe and dented car are supposed to remind the clients – most of whom are elderly and/or poor – that I’m just a poor working schmuck a rung or two above them on the economic ladder, not a representative of a professional and finely-oiled delivery machine. That way, hopefully they won’t take it out on me when Medicare or the pharmacy or whoever fucks up their prescriptions, which frequently happens. Hey, look at me; we’re in this together. I’m obviously being fucked over too.

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