The last time I had an ID on a lanyard was the summer of 1988, when I was working at CIA’s Office of Technical Services and had a green badge that had to be exposed at all times at work. For reasons that are perhaps obvious, I would remove the badge and lanyard when I departed Headquarters in the evening. Back then, ordinary everyday people didn’t have to wear their ID at work; lanyards with badges became, for me, an emblem of authority.
Then I went to law school, and I wound up being more Martin Vail than Q. Some years later the people in charge of my usual stomping grounds, the Harris County Criminal Justice Center, issued ID badges to frequent courthouse visitors. Some lawyers refused to get the badges on the theory that they didn’t need no steenkin’ badges; they would rather wait in line with the People than apply to the Man for a badge. Not me, though. With a badge, I no longer had to remove my Luccheses to expose my socked feet to the possible carnal podophiliac yearnings of corpulent rentacops; instead I could flash my credentials, stomp right past security, stow my badge and go to the elevators. This was, of course, a good thing.
I soon started noticing other Harris County criminal defense attorneys wearing their badges throughout the day on lanyards. “Odd,” I thought, “Lanyards are a badge of authority. Yet here are people who are supposed to be resisting authority, and they appear to be relishing the emblems of authority. Hmm.” I was reminded of one of my first conscious contacts with mental illness: the man in Mt. Airy, Maryland (one of my hometowns) who wore a quasi-police looking outfit with a sam browne belt, a badge, and a watergun on his hip. I put the wearing of lanyards to people who don’t need them down to a mental deficit on the part of the lanyard-wearers — if defense lawyers want to look official, that’s not my problem — and moved on.
Since 2001, however, everywhere I go, I notice people wearing gratuitous lanyards everywhere. We’ve somehow become a nation of lanyard-wearers. I still ascribe the willingness to wear a lanyard in public to a desire to appear official, and I associate the desire to appear official with an unwonted willingness to ingratiate oneself with those who actually are official. So beware potential jurors who wear lanyards to jury service. They’ll go after your client like zombies on crack.
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