The men in grey


I am back at work.

I usually go very casual. Some proper pants, maybe a jeans, then a shirt and some moderately colorful pullover over it. Banana Republic style. It usually works.

Occasionally though I have to go in full fledged uniform.

‘Costume/cravatte’, as we say in French.

The sight has become so rare that my colleagues start making fun of me when they see me like this. As if they don’t recognize me.

A few days back it was time for that again, my department organized the annual ‘European Citizens’ Initiative Day‘.

It’s a yearly conference taking stock of the newly introduced right for one million Europeans to sign an initiative and ask the EU to become active on a certain problem.

ECI DayFor the first time, I did not organize it myself, but was merely a participant.

I had the easy task to take notes to write up the final short summary of results and concrete proposals for a revision of the law.

But unlike my colleagues who were busy organizing it all, I could sit down and listen.

Seeing myself in that ‘costume/cravatte’ outfit, I felt really out of place though. Nothing new, I never liked the constraints of it, the tie, the whole uneasiness.

FlagsOn that day it really symbolized my return to work and the end of my journey though.

It was nice to see a lot of colleagues during the conference, and a lot of the people working for NGOs and civil society organizations for whom we essentially work.

But at the same time I feel weird, like this is not happening to me but someone else, like I am watching myself in a movie or something, or like lucid dreaming, when you know this is not really happening. Though it is.

I walk through the European Quarter every day, seeing all those guys in their smart suits and the ladies with their business outfits and pearl earrings running into their offices, streaming into the European Parliament, heading for their lobbyist cabinets…

I feel invisible, strange, not belonging to all this.

On the other side, there’s also tons of young people, slightly alternative outfits, assistants or trainees to members of Parliament, working for NGOs etc….

And I realize that Brussels is actually run by a pretty young crowd. Well, not ‘run by’, but at least young people are swarming around everywhere.

True Europeans, fluent in five or more languages, working somehow in and around the Euro bubble, for somehow making this continent a better place.

It’s especially visible on those famous Thursday afternoons on ‘Place Lux’ opposite the Parliament, when the place is crawling with young people drinking beers, chatting, hunting for a new job, meeting (or hooking up).

It’s the place for the Euro bubble. They have to block parts of the road because there are too many people.

Looking into the remains of my wardrobe though (after donating roughly 70% of it all before leaving), with the one single (grey) suit that remains and the mostly blue-ish shirts, ties and pullovers…

… and even though I vowed not to buy any more stuff and clothing…

…I feel like I need color. I need a red or green jeans. I need some flashy stuff.

I don’t want to become one of the men in grey.