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January 4, 2010

It’s strange, the way the mind works. I remember when I first started working in a dotcom company ten years ago, ID badges were disparaged and people who wore them – these “doggie tags” – were mocked. It was a symbol of a perverted kind of bravado (sorry, “cool”) to not wear your doggie tag. Of course the doors were not security-enabled, so you could waltz in and out without a badge hanging from your neck if you wanted to. Everybody knew everybody, there was no question of anyone actually stopping you and asking for your badge. The whole thing was a bit of a joke. In the last company I worked for, things were totally different. You couldn’t get into the main areas of the office building without an ID, and even in the more “public” areas like the cafeteria, you had to have your badge visibly on you, even if it was a temporary badge or a visitor badge. Badgeless workers would be questioned and tailgating was just not acceptable. Between these two extremes my various organisations showed various degrees of seriousness about ID badges. My own attitude was largely indifferent – I wore my badge because I was supposed to and neither liked nor abhorred it… or so I thought. I don’t know when the badge became a symbol of anything to me, but when I joined my current organization, I looked forward to getting my badge and wearing it like a medal of honour, to proclaim that I too, now, was a member of the workforce (the paid workforce, I mean). When I joined my new organization, it took them a couple of working weeks to get my badge. Meanwhile, I had nothing: no temporary badge, no visiting cards, not even a simple parking sticker. Strange as it is, this made me feel… unsettled, I think is the best word. I lacked the sense of belonging. I had my cube, my laptop, my desk phone, but… my attire was incomplete. I still didn’t have the look of a gainfully employed person. For that final, crucial touch, I needed the badge. And now I have it: a gaudy red tape with a badly scanned image of my face – wearing a somewhat sardonic half-smile – at the end of it. It really is not something potent enough to be a symbol of anything, but… somehow it feels good to have my doggie tag back.

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