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  1. Men in uniform

    -They look exactly the same, all of them! Tell me; are they in uniform, or what?

    This statement came from me, the father of a young man at 18 ½ years old. Polo shirt, light colored cotton trousers, cool Converse shoes in soft material, ankle socks and backward caps. Some also wear a shoulder bag. I’m talking about real west side boys.

    Where’s the personality?

    A few days later came the following statement from my daughter in her early twenties while she was looking out over the parking lot where we live:

    -Have you seen how middle-aged men dress? They all wear the same!

    Dark blue polo, jeans, sneakers and a gray mane of hair combed to one side, – for those who have any left.

    -Uniform? We? No!

    I was on my way home the same day that Paul McCartney would hold a concert at Fornebu Arena. Due to traffic jam, many people choose to walk from the nearest train station, all in all one kilometer in my direction. A quick overview of the audience, I could confirm my daughter’s observation. If you have a relationship to Paul McCartney, you’re probably born sometime in the ’50s. Then you probably have been in love, driven scooters, smoked and drunk beer to psychedelic Beatles records and decent Wings albums.

    There were lots of gray hairs when the middle-aged couples congested the walkways. As I tackled the oldies one by one with my bicycle, I saw how correct my daughter’s observation was. Some gentlemen had swapped the piquet shirts in real shirts, all in different shades of blue. I’d say they were still within the uniform code.

    I was born in the ’50s – and quite rightly, under the bike jacket and the helmet I wore the same clothes as Paul McCartney’s audience. I don’t wear biker shorts with «diaper» and cycling shoes with pedal hooks. I think my sister-in-law’s statement is engraved into my head, when she once told everybody that office men in lycra scored lowest on a list of sexy men. Even if I am born way back in the 50s, I certainly want to be sexually attractive.

    I wear helmet and jacket, and bike gloves when there isn’t midsummer any more. Then I feel uniformed as a serious cyclist. I’m not one of those sitting bow-legged and wobbling around with their bike on the pavement. I am one of those bikers to ride as efficiently as possible given the fact that I am wearing ordinary clothes.

    Riding in normal clothes, is a signal to other cyclists that you’ve got to take it a bit easy. Then it’s alright for them to take the front position in the cycle boxes by traffic lights, and other places it is possible to overtake securely. But if you’ve chosen to cycle in professional biker-wear, you are obliged to keep a certain pace. It is embarassing to sit in full lycra with rattling breath on the slopes spinning on the lowest gear.

    Just as well without uniform?

    Uniform is not just fabric, leather and polished brass. It is as much the sweater you wear when you are arranging a flea market, or reflex vest when it is your turn to guard the boat marina. It is a symbol that shows that you are part of a community, a system, an event, a function. The sweater at a flea market tells the world that I am no longer Terje, but «one of those guys who organizes a flea market» – and I have to actually admit that it gives me a very good feeling.

    A good sense of what?

    Affiliation, the good team feeling. Doing something together, being in the same boat and having common goals. For some people I think it is the ultimately meaning of life.

    Safety and protection. No sane person would mug a man in uniform. Then he will have to fight all the other men wearing the same uniform, too. Although the power of a uniform may trig the evil in some persons, I choose to concentrate on the good feeling. It is, in fact, possible to get the same feeling without uniform. Sometimes, during my everyday’s life, I feel that I am no longer Terje, but:

    – one of those persons sitting in the same wagon on the train to Ski.
    – one of those guys biking in a cluster along Bestumkilen.
    – one of those parents of the graduate students.
    – one of those guys who fish in a boat near the reefs.

    A small correction

    Did I feel that I had the same uniform as the middle-aged gentlemen on their way to the Paul McCartney concert? The answer is «no» despite the fact that they had the same outfit as me, were born in the ’50s like me, and certainly were influenced by Paul McCartney, like me. The problem was that I tried to take me home by bicycle, while the gray-haired mass of out-of-town people did not understand that one should leave a small strip of the road for the bikers.

    That afternoon I felt more like one of those crazy guys who tried to get home just before Paul McCartney took to the stage.» Thus I felt I was in the same uniform as the 2 poor roller-skiers in full roller-skier-outfit who struggled more than me to get passed the flock, and yet, I’ve never been on roller skis.

    🙂 Uniformed men are supposed to play on the same team.

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