— Ted Williams
American baseball player
Because the news broke a couple of weeks ago on the popular “Mark in the Morning” radio talk show, I might as well fess up.
I do love a particular necktie.
I know, I know. You’re mumbling, “But you hate neckties! You even wrote about it! Hypocrite! Heretic! Fashion fiend! Get thee to a nunnery, or monastery ... your choice ... and repent for thy sins!”
Take the venom from your words and the malice from your heart, folks. That’s no way to act so close to Thanksgiving. I will explain.
Yes, it is true. I hold great loathing for neckties.
Yes, I went public about it in newsprint in this column in the Sunday edition ... twice, in fact, in the last three weeks. This will be my final entry on the subject. Promise. Well ... sort’a promise. In my book a sort’a promise is almost as good as a pinky swear ... kind’a.
Yes, I’ve openly condemned without apology the silkiest, prettiest and brightest of neckties regardless of color, pattern, fabric, stripe, theme or tone. And I stick by those indictments.
But there is this one tie.
It is called my “Happy Tie.” I wear it every Friday. I’m wearing it now as I write ... er, type. Currently, I am looking down at it. It is upside down.
My “Happy Tie” is 100 percent polyester. The label says it was made in Korea and that it should be dry-cleaned only. It features the cartoon characters “Garfield” and “Odie,” and they’re fighting over a ball of string. This yellow-shaded Odie is tangled up in the white cord, but his bright red tongue and bouncy enthusiasm tell a story of innocence ... and, well, a general lack of awareness ... of anything.
The orange-coated Garfield, on the other hand, is hugging the unraveling ball of entertainment while smirking at his carnation-colored buddy from above.
It’s hardly the garb of the rich and famous, nor would it be accepted logowear on Wall Street. It isn’t a trademark of professionalism nor it is a sign of the deep thinker. It doesn’t shout “success” nor does it radiate anything other than what it is. It is merely my “Happy Tie” and it hangs from my neck in celebration of the end of another grueling week in the newspaper industry.
Of course, as newsroom insiders know, Friday hardly carries the same emotional lift as in most professions. That’s because we work on weekends as well — most Saturdays and sometimes on Sunday. It’s the nature of the trade. It’s one of the reasons Internet surveys have called newspaper reporting one of the five worst jobs in America.
Maybe that’s why I wear my “Happy Tie.” Maybe that’s why I wear it on Friday. It does little for credibility, but it is a consistent conversation piece.
Each Friday morning, as a matter of ritual, I stop off at the neighborhood convenience store on my way to work. I gas up the car. I go inside and buy a cup of 100 percent Columbian coffee — the real stuff, not the decaffeinated that I drink Monday through Thursday.
And each Friday morning, the store worker working the front counter points to my chest with a grin and declares, “I love your tie!”
It brings them joy.
And each Friday morning, I walk into the newsroom door, plop down in front of my computer and in mid-thought am often greeted by a droopy-eyed reporter who also points, “You’re wearing your ‘Happy Tie’ again!”
It brings them renewed energy.
And each Friday morning, I have one or more visitors from the outside stepping into my office. Their gaze unveils what is in their hearts, “Where’d you get that tie? I want one!”
It brings them hope.
And each Friday morning, on my way to the coffee pot I will meet a co-worker from another department in the hallway. After a second look and a pronounced giggle, the associate will exclaim, “You don’t mind being seen wearing that?”
It brings them clarity that I am not the heartless monster others have claimed.
And each Friday morning, tired of the necktie’s grip, I will release the knot with clumsy fingers and unbutton the unforgiving collar.
It brings me belief that loosening our attitudes, and not taking ourselves quite so seriously, will release the “Odies” and the “Garfields” in us all.
My beloved wife of 36-plus years, who is now and forever my best friend, confidante and personal treasure, loves my “Happy Tie” as well. As I dress for work every Friday morning, I will hear her question from another room, “Are you wearing your ‘Happy Tie’ today?”
“Yes, my love,” I answer. “It is Friday. And we must not mess with Fridays.”
Somebody in the community — I don’t recall who ... might have been a mayor, perhaps a custodian, maybe a teacher or likely a firemen, all are noble professions — once asked me, “Does it work?”
“Does what work?” I asked with a perplexed frown.
“Does the ‘Happy Tie’ make you happy?” he sought.
“It’s just a necktie,” I smiled. “Happiness is in the heart.”
“Oh,” my friend nodded. “So it’s a message tie. You’re kind of reaching out to others.”
“If it’s a message that has reached you, then sure, call it a message tie,” I acknowledged. “But I call it a ‘Happy Tie.’”
This time he smiled, perhaps uncertain whether to hug me or call 911. He chose neither. After shaking hands, we parted ways.
Thanksgiving is but four days away. For many reasons, it is my favorite holiday of the year. It has nothing to do with the food nor the launch of Christmas shopping nor afternoon football nor half-a-day off work nor spending a few hours with loved ones.
It is about being thankful for the little things in life.
My “Happy Tie” is one of those.
In years to come, one of us will fall apart first. It is a fact of life. It is a matter of time. But it doesn’t take away this truth: Happiness is not a goal. It is a means.
I love my “Happy Tie.”
And I am thankful for the designer whose vision made it so.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. I pray the holiday brings you, and those you love, the measure of happiness that all so warmly deserve.