‘Wear something different’ was today’s challenge. But on a work day that’s not possible for me as we have a strict uniform code.
My uniform isn’t exactly flattering but it is practical and it can be interesting to wear one in terms of people’s reactions to me. Currently there’s a show on at the No Walls Gallery as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival called ‘Duality’ by Simon Bray and Tristan Poyser which addresses just this. It’s a series of diptych photos of people in their workwear and own clothing. It aims to explore how the viewer reacts to the uniform and how it shapes their view of the person. (Check out some of the images and more information here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-37488811).
A uniform changes how people see you. It can convey professionalism and authority. It can engender trust and confidence. It can disguise or even make you invisible.
I visited a patient in the community today who I last saw as an inpatient some months ago. She didn’t recognise me and said she would have walked past me in the street. My uniform, and therefore I, was only associated with the one setting.
It reminded me of another incident some years ago. Our church minister had been visiting patients in our hospice very regularly and always made a point of speaking to me when he did. He also saw me most Sundays at a service and every Wednesday at midweek Communion. One evening, I was at the supermarket checkout when I spotted him and his wife at the other end of the tills. She smiled, waved at me, and then nudged him, pointing me out. He looked puzzled. I smiled and got on with packing my shopping, only to be stopped in my tracks aa few minutes later as a booming voice projected right across the supermarket for all to hear: ‘Sorry, Liz, I didn’t recognise you with clothes on!’