Thursday, 11 February 2016

"Clothes make the man"

- or so it would seem - but only sometimes.
Gillian Philip was, rightly, complaining about the way women who want to eat on their own are treated in restaurants. It seems men who want to eat on their own do face difficulties - but perhaps not as many.
I was reminded though of an incident that occurred some years ago now. One of my occasional roles is to act as "amicus curiae" in court - a person who goes in to sit with someone and assist them through the court proceedings. I  usually tell people I am there in a "communication assistance" role. 
There are standards of dress in court. The people who work there don't wear jeans and t-shirts or paint splattered overalls. There was a time when women did not, under any circumstances, wear trousers in the courtroom. I can remember hearing a judge say to a  barrister who dared to turn up in a bright red suit, "I cannot see you..."
I used to wear a navy blue suit into court. It was about as sober as it is possible to get and it could pass muster from the Magistrates' Court to the Supreme Court and Federal Court and - on one memorable occasion - the High Court. 
It was on that last occasion that I had been invited out to lunch with a very senior member of the legal profession. As it takes me rather longer to get somewhere than most people I, at her suggestion, set out and arrived at the place we were eating at. I went in.I said we had a reservation - in her name.
I was asked to wait outside. I know now I should have insisted on being seated. I didn't. I was too stunned. The third person who was meeting with us arrived at that point and was also too stunned to protest. We stood there looking at one another and then went outside into the chill of a Canberra winter's day. The senior member of the legal profession arrived and, naturally, asked why we were standing there. We told her.
She marched in and came out a minute or so later clearly fuming. We went to another place around the corner. Could they fit three people in? Yes, no problem. 
We ate lunch. We discussed the case we were meeting about. The senior member of the legal profession was calmer when we left... but the incident got around the legal profession. They boycotted the other place. As many of them used it at the time it must have had an impact on the business. The owner grovelled. I was offered a free meal there. 
I declined politely. I was not going to bother to dress up for them.


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