Every year, September 19th is recognized as “Talk Like a Pirate Day”.
This story was written by Kevin himself in 2009, to describe a series of events that occurred when he dared to take the concept of talking like a pirate to the next level.
An Epic Tale o’ Pirattitude
Or, a pirate in the workplace
by Captain Bloody Plotter, Corporate Art Pirate, who swears every word is the unvarnished truth
Submitted on Talk Like A Pirate Day 2009
I wear my billowing pirate shirt, leather slacks, red waist sash, high boots and a short sword every Sept 19th occasionally I even do the head scarf.
Having spent the last few years in R&D labs, computer security centers and assorted other eclectic places most people don’t even ask me about it.
Some years back I was working for a software company (that sold software to run tractor dealerships. no kidding) as the graphic artist for all their marketing. sales. training, and web projects. I had my own office on a different floor away form the customers and 95% of the staff. So I came to work dressed like a pirate.
I got a phone call from our H.R. manger, a Ms. P. Klatt, aka Klattbert (I KNOW, but you just can’t make something like that up).
Anyway, Klattbert wanted to know “Is it true?”
“Is what true?” I asked innocently.
“That. you are dressed like a pirate. and are in violation of our dress code?” (her voice was already starting to rise … )
“I’m not in violation of our dress code, I’m wearing a button up shirt, tucked in I might add, and a pair of slacks, not jeans. I remember the talk we had about jeans being unprofessional looking for the creative staff…” (my voice all sweetness and light)
(By this point I was stashing my short sword in one of the long boxes plotter paper rolls come in. and un-blousing my cool black leather slacks from the tops of my boosts so they would hide the fact l was wearing boots. )
I hear a sigh, ”Well I’m glad you got around to reading the employee attire policy, …. ” she states with more glee than I’ve com to expect form her.
“You had me illustrate it and put it on the required reading intranet site. Then you had me write a macro to email you each person’s name that logged into the site and how long they spent on that page, you should have gotten my time logged in ….. ” I cooed smoothly to her …
“Oh, yes, that’s right, I’m glad to hear you have FINALLY come to respect company policies, you had an attitude problem when you first got here ….. Huff .. ” She was sounding like she had just won a major victory.
(She actually huffed at me. Mind you a skinny 5’2″ blond woman huffing at me through a phone is hardly very intimidating, particularly when the blond in question looks like Goldie Hawn’s anorexic little sister. )
She continued, “so its safe to say that you are NOT dressed as a pirate today?” (voice starting to return to normal)
“l am most certainly not violating our dress code… ” I reply evenly
(There is another long pause as she ponders the implication of this … )
“Are you saying you are dressed like a pirate? ” voice rising to critical level.
“What do you think a pirate looks like?” I Pause to let this sink in then continue. “Carl Icahn, Victor Posner and Nelson Peltz, All wear Armani Suits, Bill Gates wears a button down shirt and slacks, no tie and needs a haircut.” (my voice full of innocence).
“I think you are missing the point here.” she replies exasperated.
(By this point I figure she will decide it’s worth walking up the flight of stairs separating us to annoy me further. I start preparing my secret weapon. I print a copy of her “dress code policy memorandum”. I print this on my HP Designjet 350 plotter on 3 foot by 4 foot paper with a font size suitable to the legally blind. or to be seen across a stadium. It even has her signature enlarges [sic] to the size of a Jumbo prawn and her HR department banner at the top. A perfect super sized replica of her irritating memo. I post this on my wall directly within (sight) of the door so she can read it as she comes in. )
“l think most of our phone support staff is starting to look like Bill Gates, we should look at putting sunlamps down there as part of the employee wellness program. we might also give them an allowance for combs and hair cuts … ” (I suggest helpfully,) “l think they are all starting to look like pirates down there …. ” I add with great concern.
“Bill Gates is NOT a Pirate!” She exclaims. (She huffs again to catch her breath).
“He was in The Pirate(s) of Silicon Valley. the movie was mostly about how he pirated the original DOS code from a former employee of Digital Research. Then license it to IBM for a mint. That has to be one of the greatest acts of plunder in history … ” I point out honestly.
“You are being difficult, we are not talking about Bill Gates!, he is a business genius. …” She is getting shrill by this point l must have hit a nerve. “We are talking about you and the dress code …… ”
“I thought you wanted to talk about pirates and what they wear, I was only trying to be helpful.” (I was working at sounding hurt)
“Are you or are you not dressed like a pirate? ” She was almost screaming
“I’d have to say not, I don’t have a peg leg, or a parrot, or even an eye patch. I’m also pretty sure there is some fire code regulation about carrying slow burning fuses or matches in your beard and hat like Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard). ”
“I’m coming up!, ” she roars.
“Ok, but be careful there are lots of shipping boxes stacked by my office door waiting to be picked up and shipped to next week’s trade show. Oh, also the building maintenance guy is changing the bulbs in the hall, and I’m videoing technical bits for the online users guide right now, so don’t trip on the light of video cables as you come in“. l add helpfully, ignoring the tone of her voice.
The really twisted part is that all that was true, so I slewed the camera so it would cover the office door and not just the blue screen next to it, an un-paused the recording. I’m really starting to like having the pan, tilt, zoom controls for the camera fed into my desktop.
(phone disconnects abruptly)
I hear a light thumping in the distance, and heel sounds coming down the hall.
At this point I must interject that my desk strategically faced the only door to my cavernous (14-20) office and my large screen monitor was directly between me and the door, I had all the overhead lights turned off and bright floods behind the camera, covering the blue screen and the door, I figured I was just about invisible.
There is a loud pounding at my door, “come in.” I say sweetly. “Just be careful, I was not expecting guests today, ”
The door flies open all the way to the stops and jostles one of the 3-6 foot rollable shipping case our trade show booth folds into, right on cue it falls over with a heavy thud. It falls several feet away from her, but she still jumps. The air rushing by further upsets her wild hair as she shields her eyes from the lamp’s glare with the back of her hand. (I zoom in slightly this is just to good to miss … )
“Are you alright? the shipping people were (supposed) to be here and get that stuff hours ago. (I pause watching her breath(e) hard) Don’t worry, the cases is built plenty tough the baggage apes in Chicago will probably treat it rougher then that getting it off the plane and onto a truck. So no harm no foul. ” (I’m still putting on my nice voice)
“Where are you? “she stammers after catching her breath.
“Over here,” I wave over the top of my monitor, not getting up.
“I can’t see you, it’s too dark over there.” she calls.
“Then turn on the overhead light- the switch is next to the door on the side with all the crates.” I reply helpfully but I know she knows were the switch is.
She manages to turn on the light without knocking anything else over.
“Is that better?” I call, still behind my monitor.
“Why did you have all the light(s) off?” she asked exasperated.
“Well,” I start, “support has been in an out of here all day, to film bits for the interactive manual. I have been doing some product shots for sales, and Max (the owner) wants some of his donations to the charity auction photographed for the web site. What can I do for you. ? a beginning portfolio, passport photo or something.”
“I came to see YOU!” (almost a scream)
“Oh, how nice. I like visitors. ” I cut in knowing I was disturbing her flow. “but I’m very busy right now with everything going on. I’m sorry the place is so cluttered up, let me see if I can clear off a chair for you” I continued (all my extra chairs had over sized printouts draped over them drying.)
“That won’t be necessary” she said through clenched teeth. “I’m not staying long”
“Oh. ok, that’s too bad,” I try to sound disappointed. “I’ve come to enjoy our talks, I think of it as part of my professional development.” I keep my voice as even as possible, she is flushing red on the monitor and I catch the telltale nostril flare that she’s upset and getting ready to really start in. I zoom out and swivel as she approaches the desk.
“Stand up!” she demands.
I stand up and smile, my arms crossed and the extra material of my sleeves hanging gracefully down.
“Yes, how can I help you” I manage in a neutral tone as if absolutely nothing is wrong.
”You can start by explaining why you are being insubordinate and are violating our dress code policy, a policy I know you have read, you admitted that you read it, and your [sic] wearing that’‘ she is pointing at me and shaking in anger.
I take one step to the side so I am not block in [sic] the giant version of her memo.
“I have it right here is [sic] says male employees will wear button down shirts with collars, and managers and above will wear ties. It also states that male employees will wear full length slacks and leather shoes. l’ m wearing all that.” I state neutrally.
”But that is a pirate shirt and those are leather pants … :· She’s beginning to lose control “I should write you up for insubordination right now! ”
“Insubordinate?” I ask. “but to be subordinate to you l would have to work tor you. I work tor Pat in marketing and Harold in support, (indicate oversized wall chart of company organization, also
something I made at Klattbert’s direction. ) To be insubordinate I would have to be refusing to follow your directions or speaking disrespectfully to you. right?” ”What have I said that’s disrespectful. what directions am I not following.?‘” (I’m being very careful now)
“You are dressed as a PIRATE!, making a mockery of this company … !” she’s lost it now.
“Pirate?” I say sounding confused, “I thought this was more of an independent film director look” (making box with thumb and first finger of each hand and peering through it at her.)
“STOP THAT, I won’ t be made fun of!” she was really yelling now and I was still being calm and
“I’ve been giving stage direction to the tech guys all morning as I record them“. I half turn to look at the giant memo and scratch my chin. ”I’m not wearing jeans or tennis shoes or a t-shirt. My cloths are neat and pressed, what could be a problem?” (Trying to sound ultra sincere).
“You are wearing leather pants and a pirate shirt … !” she screamed, turning beat red. “I could fire you right NOW!”
“For wearing a collared button-down shirt and slacks as specified in our policy, I’m confused.”
“No you are not. you are making fun of me and my policies!” she looked like she could not decide whether to scream or cry.
“Leather pants are not slacks. they are …. leather pants.” she gasped.
(I make a point of silently studying the memo looking up, looking down, muttering to myself and then I look back at her and say “I’m sorry but I can’t find a section about what slacks can and can’t be made of.” (These pants have pleats and slash pockets. )
She looks at the super memo but knows she did not mention material as it relates to slacks. “Fine” she screams, “I’ll amend the memo and redistribute it“. “What about the pirate shirt – what’s that all about?.”
“Well, it’s so comfortable, it breathes really well in the heat and I love how it does not bunch up or restrict my arms. I have a few hundred pounds of trade show booth to move in a few minutes.”
“Management is going to hear about this YOU CAN”T SIT THERE SMUGLY DEFYING ME!” , she is screaming now, her tiny frame heaving with the effort.
She slammed her tiny fist on my desk and got ready to say something else when the phone rang. I looked at the extension. It was the owner of the company Max.
”I Wonder what we can do for Max today.?” I said aloud.
Klattbert’s mouth was working but no sound issued, it looked like some dire threat involving me looking for work in the interior of another continent, without the correct travel papers, but it was very hard to make out. Shrugging I casually press the speaker phone button, this earns me a dirty look that could decimate a stalwart battalion.
“Arrrgh. avast ye up in the crow’s nest. Hav’ye finessed packing the chests’ yet? We ha’h brown long boats a coom’in along the port side. They be want to take those etchins oaf our hans …”
Max’s pirate brogue mixed with his usual Texas drawl sounded like Errol Flynn was trying to get under Scarlet O’Hara’s jib but there was a warmth to it that made me smile. Klat(t)ber(t) looked like she was going to die right there on the spot.
“Aye Sir, Ellbon’ o cloc, rit un tym, tell te lads ta step livly up har. I ha’th yo chests al ship shape und Bristol fashion .. ” (I replied with a little more cockney than Max could manage)
”Ah. Aye knew ‘ya woad cum thrue wit it all even tho ya hat three fewer days than we say’d have, good lad! Whena yur don wit yer otter labors soma tyme bot nex week ye take a day o leave that be an order.”
“Aye. sir. thanke kindly that be mighty Christian o ya, I tink Ms Klatt here be wanting a word wit ya. …” I deftly zoomed in tight on her face as I stepped around the desk to let the shippers start carrying out the pile of shipping crates, one of them gave me a nod and a thumbs up upon seeing my outfit. I signed for the pick up and turned to watch Klattbert frozen in horror long at my phone like it might get up and strike her at any moment.
She stammered and nothing intelligible came out “What kin’ Aye du fer ya, mi bonnie wee lass?” issued through the phone…
“What’s going on, I don’t understand any of this, what’s happ(en)ing today, has everyone around me lost their minds ” she final(ly) managed to blurt out.
“Why it’s September 19th International Talk Like a Pirate Day, don’ t you keep up with the web
calendar?” Max said in a friendly tone reverting back to his native Texan twang.
“Oh thank you sir, for clearing that up” she said and started to bid a hasty retreat from my office. With papers in hand. I did finish everything and get my comp time off. I was not disciplined and no addendum to the dress code ever came out. Oddly she never mentioned that day to me again, as long as I worked there.
Things were more relaxed in the R&D world.