I usually speak of the serious side of dressing like a professional for my job. Your appearance, communication and mannerisms are very important to gaining the respect of those around you. People will take you more seriously when you put forth a good image.
Today, I wanted to share some of the “funny” things which have happened to me because of my professional appearance. Due to the fact that I’ve decided years ago to step way out of my comfort zone and wear a tie, you can imagine that I tend to stand out in a crowd of drivers. Let’s just say… I’ve had my share of “ribbing”. What counter-balances this are the days when the unexpected occurs and even I’m shocked at a particular experience. I thought it would be fun to share some of those experiences with you and we can laugh together at the lighter side of “dressing for success.”
While on the job, I’ve had many occasions where people have mistaken my identity/profession: I’ll explain…
One of the first experiences I had early on in wearing my tie will always be a memory. I was picking up a load in Baltimore, MD at a very secure location. I arrived early and met a man who came out of the office to greet me. He realized I was there to pick up a shipment and he introduced himself and invited me into the offices for a cup of coffee and some conversation. As I left the office and headed back to my truck, I came upon another truck driver who is a regular for this company and he told me he couldn’t believe I was in their offices and made it clear to me “nobody is ever allowed to enter their offices.”
On one particular sunny day is South Carolina, I was unfortunately stuck in a traffic jam due to an accident on I-95. Motorists and truck drivers sat for quite a while when many of us decided to get out and chat. As we were all assessing the damage and incident which took place, a driver said to me “and just where is your bus in all of this?” I told him my truck was parked on this side of the road just ahead of us. He actually thought I was a bus driver.
I started my day at 4:00am one morning at a truck stop in Louisiana. It was a bit cold and therefore, I wore my leather jacket inside the restaurant as I walked up to the counter in anticipation of a good breakfast. When the waitress came over to take my order she said “wow, you must have an early flight out today.” I looked puzzled for a moment. She then said “you’re a pilot right?” I replied, “No, I’m a truck driver.” She told me I sure looked like a pilot the way I was dressed. I had my button down shirt on, tie, nice pants, shoes and leather bomber jacket. The waitress went on to explain that a small airport was located nearby.
Years ago, I parked my truck at a regular customer as I was a dedicated carrier for them. I loaded every other day during the daytime hours and was familiar with all the staff. However, one particular evening, after coming in from a run, I parked my truck and was headed for my car to go home. I needed to walk through the plant to get to the location where my car was parked, which happened to be on the opposite side of the lot. I took my jacket and briefcase from my truck and began my walk through the plant. The night workers didn’t know me and a strange feeling came over me as I noticed they were watching me intently. The plant manager found me as I arrived to my car. He said “Oh, Hi Henry.” My workers were calling me by phone and letting me know that “upper management was in the plant from the corporate offices.” They were worried and thought upper management had come by to check on the “night shift workers”. The manager knew me and we both had a good laugh that night.
Over the years, I’ve had customers and drivers in convenience stores ask me where items are located within the store. They oftentimes mistake me for a manager. While at docks, I’ve had drivers come up to me asking for their paper work. I explain to them that I’m awaiting my paper work as well. I find it really funny when I’m at the fuel island and a driver asks me “who did you fire?” they often times think I’m management retrieving a truck after having fired the driver. On another occasion, I went to the shipping office to pick up a load and the sign read “sales people by appointment only”. The man at the desk asked me what time was my appointment? I said to him that “I was only given a pick up number for my shipment.” He then said “Oh… I thought you were a sales person.” I then told him “Well, I guess I am since I own the company, however today, I’m here to pick up a shipment.
I have an endless score of such stories. I wanted to share with you some of the funny moments that not fitting into the stereotypical mold has afforded me over the years.