Another watch as a Rescue Captain is under my belt and I took an old story from a colleague and applied it to my day. That was one of the best decisions I made all day.
There have been discussions around the interwebs machine about what makes a Professional professional. Swagger was one answer, brains another, but I always default to the first thing people see when we walk in the door.
The story relayed to me was by one of the more experienced Captains who was around back in the municipal ambulance days of old (pre-1999). He told me that some of the crews would carry a black neck tie in their ambulance. If you encountered a client that demanded to speak to your supervisor for clearly bogus reasons, a quick call on the radio for that crew would bring in a person dressed exactly the same, except wearing a tie.
The trick to pulling this ruse was not ever saying that you were the supervisor, but just walking in with the air of authority, and of course the neck tie, and simply asking what the trouble was.
After a good laugh I got to thinking about it. As part of my duties I attend the Division Chief’s briefing in the morning and, out of respect for the rank, wear my tie, as do all the other attendees, the Chiefs also in their dress coats and caps. After leaving that meeting I noted on my computer that an abnormal amount of ambulances seemed to be backed up at a local hospital.
As I pulled up to the large construction area, rigs were crammed wherever they could to unload on level ground, since the hospital was on the edge of a hill. (Ahhh, San Francisco.)
Approaching the area we usually parked I see it being used as a tool staging area and asked the foreman if there was a way he could move his tools to the hill side of the area. I was ready to defend my reasoning when suddenly he apologized and started to move them. After confirming I was not the first person dressed in a blue shirt with red patches who asked them to do that, I looked around and sure enough, my tie was still on. The buggy was parked around the corner and no one calls me Captain, so I have to assume it was the tie or my amazing powers of persuasion.
Appearance is not all it takes to be a Professional, but it is the first thing people use to assume who you are. Right or wrong, that is how we’re wired, so put them on the right track by looking the part, then act the part.
No tie required most days.