Put On a Coat, You Loser! In which the author goes insane for what at first seems a very small reason.
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Explain it to me. It's winter here in the great Northeast. Temperatures rise to just above the freezing point. You wear a hat, gloves. You bundle up in that atrocious scarf your in-laws got you, the paisley one. The wind is brutal; it jabs its stiletto under your coat and into your ribs as you walk to that lunch across town. Now and then the clouds roll in from the north, and the sky spits a little snow. As you stand at the corner, you look across the intersection, and what's that you see? Two guys waiting for the light to change. Their hands are in their pockets, and on their backs are...well, nothing at all.

No, they're not naked. But they might as well be. They're dressed in nothing but their business suits. No coats. No scarves. No little mittens attached to their cuffs by metal clasps. No hats, of course. Their collars are turned up, and their suit jackets are buttoned to show they know they're outside. But that's the only concession they're making to the reality of the season, these big dudes who are too tough to dress right. So I want to know--what's up with these people?

I have to know. Because...I hate them. I can control it no longer. I want to punch them. I want them to catch pneumonia. I want them to die.

For the past five years or so, their number has been growing. I used to see a few of them in the fall, when the weather was changing, darting between buildings. "Jerks," I would say to myself. But I would leave it at that. They were annoying, but how many things are annoying? Lots. Now you see them everywhere, particularly in Midtown, where the stakes are high and men are men, strolling along in the dead of winter, even when it's snowing, in their skimpy little business suits. Freeze, you bastards!

I have caught myself talking to these people. They walk close to me, and I say in a voice that they will be able to hear, "It's winter, stupid." They are as oblivious to me as they are to the elements. My mother told me that one of the signs of incipient psychosis is the inability to dress appropriately. You see poor schizophrenics on the street, swaddled in heavy wraps in the middle of summer. Now we can add businessmen to that category, businessmen who can't tell when it's time to put on a coat. Fools!

I need to understand two things: one, why do they do it? And two, why do I care? Perhaps in mastering the first question I will answer the second, and find peace.

Possible reasons, then, for idiotic underdressing:

1. They're wearing long underwear: I reject this. I can't imagine people willing to freeze their nuts off being prepared to sit through a windowless business meeting with every pore of their bodies covered in thermal fabric.

2. They're only going a short distance: Nope. I have followed these guys. They're walking the same five, six blocks that I am to get their little squares of mahi-mahi and bottle of Pellegrino. They're cold, all right. But something is forcing them to be nitwits.

3. They have no coats: Perhaps they wore their old ones out and have no money to buy new ones, because profits were slightly off in the fourth quarter.... Nah. These men have coats. They just don't want to wear them.

4. Their mommies told them that if they get their coats dirty, they'll be in big trouble: Nonsense. Their mommies told them to bundle up!

5. They've been contacted by space aliens and are quickly moving to a central collection point that has no coat closet, to be transported to a better planet than this one: I hope so. But I doubt it.

6. They're pathologically cheap, and don't want to pay $1 to a coat-check person: This could be true. Giving your coat to a coat checker is also an act of trust and a relinquishment of control, something these men would find difficult. Still, I don't think this is the reason, either. It's too psychological. This isn't a mind thing. It's visceral.

7. It's me. It's actually warm out, and I'm a radically over-dressed psychotic: No way.

8. They believe if they don't wear a coat, it won't really be cold out: Now we're getting somewhere. The freezing men you see chattering down the street are clearly leaders of the free world, used to manipulating existence into a shape that works for them. It would make sense if they believed they could control Nature herself simply by dressing for the weather as they would like it to be. That would prove...

9. They're macho butt-heads trying to show how tough and sinewy they are: Yeah, baby! It fits. What we have here is another example of individuals rendered stupid by an overabundance of testosterone, doing what they can to sustain the illusion of a pre-Copernican universe with themselves at the center. In their universe, it is warm. Ergo, no coat.

This is all about men. Manly men with big male agendas. You never see a woman flapping her arms on the frigid street as she walks to her next stop. Women wear coats. Women like their coats. It's only guys who need to show off their tough stuff. Certain kinds of guys. The kind of guys that make me want to hit them with a stick.

You know them. You've always known them. These are the guys who snapped your ass with a towel when you were in sixth grade and trying to dress after another day of bad gym; the guys who today sport the biggest, hardest briefcase; who talk too loud on a cellular phone when they're sitting next to you at a restaurant; who dart and weave around you in their low-end Porsches, flipping you the bird, ramming their noses up your tailpipe on the way to their reserved parking spaces; who humiliate their peers at meetings; who take a power seat at every table; and eat smarter and run faster and trade up to new wives when their old ones get 100,000 miles on them.

They're macho men. And with the dawning of the next thousand years, what do you say we hereby declare that their day has come and gone? There are more of us, and we're as strong as they are. Did you know that? Well, we are. So let's saddle up and ride, ladies and gentlemen. The good news is that it's dead easy to spot them. In the middle of winter, they're the guys who aren't wearing any coats.

There's one now! Sic 'im!

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name.