Sunday, February 03, 2013

Right to the last twist of necktie

Appearing, Bill Black said pleasantly, "Hi, Ragle. Hi,Vic." He had on the ivy-league clothes customary with him these days. Button-down collar, tight pants . . . and of course his haircut. The styleless cropping that reminded Ragle of nothing so much as the army haircuts. Maybe that was it: an attempt on the part of sedulous, young sprinters like Bill Black to appear regimented, part of some colossal machine. And in a sense they were. They all occupied minor status posts as functionaries of organizations. Bill Black, a case in point, worked for the city, for its water department. Every clear day he set off on foot, not in his car, striding optimistically along in his single-breasted suit, beanpole in shape because the coat and trousers were so unnaturally and senselessly tight. And, Ragle thought, so obsolete. Brief renaissance of an archaic style in men's clothing . . . seeing Bill Black legging it by the house in the morning and evening made him if he were watching an old movie. And Black's jerky, too-swift stride added to the imoression. Even his voice, Ragle thought. Speeded up. Too high-pitched. Shrill.

But he'll get somewhere, he realized. The odd thing in this world is that an eager-beaver type, with no original ideas, who mimes those in authority above him right to the last twist of necktie and scrape of chin, always gets noticed. Gets selected. Rises. In the banks, in insurance companies, big electric companies, missile-building firms, universities. He had seen them as assistant professors teaching some recondite subject — survey of heretical Christian sects of the fifth century — and simultaneously inching their path up with all their might and main. Everything but sending their wives over to the administration building as bait . . .

— from Time out of Joint, by Philip K. Dick.

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