Corporate Image


Thompson stopped in the marble lobby of the office building, halfway between the security turnstiles and the bank of lifts. He turned and looked around at the sea of suit-clad employees that flowed towards their daytime stations. Captain Wilson, late of the Guards, currently Thompson’s departmental manager, strode towards him.

“Captain,” said Thompson. Captain Wilson had a first name. Everyone had. It was rumoured it might be Edwin, but no-one knew for sure. It had been a decade or two since he was in the armed services, but he was still ‘Captain’ to his face.

Captain Wilson stopped a couple of feet from Thompson and slowly ran his eyes over Thompson, then raised an eyebrow.

“Well?” he said.

“Yes, thank you for asking. Are you well? Missus Wilson too, I hope.”

“No, I mean, what’s your explanation?”

“My explanation?”

“For this.” Wilson swept his hand over Thompson, from his feet to his head. “What do you mean by turning up to work like this?”

Thompson looked down at himself. His shoes were a curious hybrid between shoes and trainers, fastened with Velcro straps. Socks, he always thought, looked ridiculous with shorts, so his legs were bare from his shoes to his knees. His shorts blended from a royal blue to an electric pink, overlaid with the black silhouette of palm trees on a tropical shore. His jacket was a light nylon affair that could be screwed up into a large pocket if necessary. It was fluorescent yellow with reflective piping. The shirt was a conservative white office shirt, set off with a restrained blue tie.

“My tie? Do you like it? My aunt got it for me.”

“Don’t be facetious. You know full well what I’m talking about. What if a client saw you like that?”

“Do you think they’d notice?”

“Notice? They’d notice you from the International Space Station. Didn’t you get my email?”

“Of course, Captain. I committed it to memory. Whilst on company business, employees must at all times present themselves in accordance with the company image, and project a professional impression in the way they dress.” Thompson leant forward conspiratorially. “Good job too, if I may say so. Quite frankly, some of the girls’ blouses, well, you know what I mean.”

“Are you deliberately trying to anger me, Thompson? If you’ve read the memo, what on Earth do you think you’re playing at, turning up to work looking like that?”

“Ah, I see. Well, there’s two explanations. Firstly, it’s” – he looked at his watch -“eight thirty-four, so technically I’m not on company time for another twenty-six minutes. It’s the trains, you see. I can either arrive early or late, and if I’m going to arrive early, I don’t really want to act like a clock-watcher and lurk outside with the smokers until five minutes to. Don’t worry, I don’t claim overtime for it or anything. Keen, that’s me. Always in early, because my job is a joy, Captain, and I want to be a corporate citizen. And secondly, I’m just following the Chief’s email from last month. Oh, your email doesn’t supersede the CEO’s, does it?” Thompson looked into the captain’s eyes anxiously.

“The Chief’s email? I mean, Mr Macpherson’s email? What are you talking about? What email?”

“Oh, you know, Captain. The one that talked about the company’s social responsibility, how it was the individual responsibility of every employee, from top to bottom, to present an ethically acceptable face to the world. Every employee, he said, even a lowly clerk like me. So I took that to heart, Captain Wilson, it coming from the chief exec and everything. I’m just doing my part for society.”

“What the blue blazes are you wittering on about, you idiot?” spluttered Captain Wilson.

“Social responsibility, Captain Wilson. Ethical behaviour. Doing my bit for the environment.”


“Well, I used to drive to the station. That’s a good three miles, Captain, three miles there and three miles back, five days a week, sometimes stuck in traffic. All that carbon dioxide pumping into the air, and who knows what else beside? No, I thought. It’s time I listened to Mr Macpherson and his clarion call to action, his appeal to each and every one of us. I’m sure you’ve been doing your bit for years, Captain, but for me it was a wake-up call, I can tell you. So I decided to cycle to and from the station. But I can’t do that in a suit, Captain, not and arrive looking professional. I mean, the sweat, Captain, the grease on my turn-ups, the creases in my trousers.”

“But, but, but you can’t turn up in the office looking like that!”

“Of course not, Captain. I’ve got clean socks in my bag, and my suit’s hanging over my chair. Five minutes, and I’ll be as smart as a new pin. See? I can please both you and Mr Macpherson. Or are you telling me your email over-rules the Chief’s?”

“No, of course not.”

“And you have to admit, cycling to the station is not only greener, but it keeps me healthy. If we all did that, there’d be less sick days, I’m sure. That would be a good thing, wouldn’t it?”

“Yes, of course, but you look like a clown, Thompson.”

Thompson grinned and looked around. “Thank you, Captain. And just look at the smiles on people’s faces. I’m helping lift the company’s spirits, and a happy workforce is a productive one, wouldn’t you say?”

Captain Wilson stabbed a finger in Thompson’s direction and struggled for words. Eventually he flung a hand in the direction of the lift.

“Just go get changed. Quickly, before someone sees you.”

“Yes, Captain,” said Thompson, spinning on his heel and bouncing into the lift.

“Good morning, Mary,” he said as the doors slid shut.

His colleague gave him an amused appraisal.

“Did Uberfeuhrer Wilson see you like that?” she asked.

“Oh, I made sure he did. I’ve been dressing myself since I was four, and he sends out an email telling me how I ought to dress?”

“Ha! Did he have a stroke?”

“Not quite, but you wait until dress-down Friday.” He gave Mary a wink. “Nice blouse, by the way.”


About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

One Response to Corporate Image

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