— Tiger Woods
U.S. Professional Golfer
(b. Dec. 30, 1975)
You know a man’s retirement is official when he commits Bass Pro Shops to speed dial, when he starts buying his own underwear at Wal-Mart and when he sets his morning alarm just for the joy of a hot cup of coffee on the front porch while watching entranced neighbors head off for work like an army of Stepford Wives.
Another sure sign is when he unloads his half-century-old collection of fuzzy-edged, mustard-stained neckties on anyone who will take them ... thrift stores, collectors, hoarders, full-time yard salers, food pantries, soup kitchens, dumpsters —
— And co-workers.
One such incident came last week within the walls of the Cleveland Daily Banner, and specifically in our newsroom.
With the exception of a remote corner of outer Mongolia, half-a-dozen tiny islands in the South Pacific whose beaches haven’t seen a human footprint since World War II and a lonely little oasis in the center of Australia’s outback ... everyone knows our managing editor, the unflappable David Davis, has retired.
Last Wednesday was David’s final day at work.
Last Wednesday morning, sometime around 5:30 to 6 a.m., David stepped into the newsroom for the final time — as a paid employee — carrying with him a large cardboard box. Its purpose was not to haul away from his desk a trove of outdated business cards, a plethora of aged reporter’s pads all bearing his brand of chicken scratch and a growing collection of personal treasures like pens, paper weights and anything without legs.
Instead, the incoming box was packed with neckties — some old, some new, some striped and some blue. And to quote his close friend, Mark Grissom, a part-time morning DJ for WOOP-FM, “... All ugly. David wore some of the ugliest ties.”
Obviously, Mark’s words were said tongue-in-cheek as best friends can best relate. And I’m sure word of Mark’s commentary on David’s taste in ties eventually made it back to David, the latter of whom undoubtedly burst out in laughter as I’m sure Mark intended.
Ironically enough, the joke’s not on David. As I am told, most of those neckties — writhing in that bulging box like a ball of mismatched snakes — were hand-me-downs from another editor. He is Larry Bowers, a former executive editor, former education reporter, former government beat writer and former sports writer who also had a keen eye for color, especially when purchased at discount.
Larry had a love — still does, to hear it told — for yard sales, thrift shops and Goodwill, all of whom are sacred hunting grounds for neckties, regardless of size, shape, stains and style.
After one of Larry’s retirements — there were a few — the grisly old newshound handed off a full box of neckties to his protege. David willingly accepted them and even kept the well-traveled container stored under his desk as an emergency supply for those rare mornings when he left home without one. Eventually he was instructed by a higher office authority to take the box home — something about ties belonging in closets, not in boxes under desks.
Over the years, the box — and the ties — served David well. Then came David’s retirement ... and the box returned to the newsroom.
On the Wednesday morning that signaled the end of a career, David plopped the box heaped with old neckties into a visitor’s chair beside his desk. Above the box he wrote a sign, “Neckties for Sale.” No takers. He added, “50% Discount.” Again, no takers. Editing the sign once more, it read, “FREE.” The vultures swarmed.
Elbowing my way through Sports Editor Richard Roberts who was eyeballing a red, white and blue U.S. patriot tie, I combed through the ball of ribbons and asked, “Do these ties have more mustard stains than mine?”
“Probably,” I was told, “along with ketchup, coffee and barbecue sauce.”
Satisfied with their quality, I perused the collection. Richard stood his ground, unwilling to surrender his corner of the box. My thoughts ran parallel to his actions. It wasn’t a matter of ties. It was a matter of FREE.
We fed like scavengers, our ravenous appetites for useless strips of polyester, cotton and silk growing more and more satisfied with each taking.
Now, two days in the wake of that great treasure hunt for man’s worst nightmare in fabric, I look to my right. The small pile of booty I plundered from the unlocked chest beside David’s cubicle still sits undisturbed on my desk where I left it, resting precariously atop a ragged stack of forgotten paperwork.
Whether I do these ties justice in my remaining years of work, as David and Larry and Goodwill did in theirs, is still an unknown. But I will give them love; at least, as much or as little love as a man can realistically give a necktie.
And to Mark’s lighthearted musings about their unsightliness — which obviously were said in fun with an understood spirit of camaradarie — I will borrow from the warm heart of Charlie Brown when selecting the puniest Christmas tree on the snow-covered lot, “It’s not such an ugly little tree. It just needs someone to give it love.”
Today’s diatribe on neckties and retirement and the joy in giving have little to do with anything.
But it has everything to do with friendship and those who give it meaning.