There is little that's uniform about elevator operators on Capitol Hill - except their nearly uniform opposition to a new directive requiring the wearing of uniforms.
A letter, written by Paul Slappey, a George Washington University graduate student and part-time elevator operator in the Russell Office Building, was being circulated yesterday soliciting support of fellow operators to oppose the rule on uniforms.
"We are a fellowship. Not homogeneous, but we are still a fellowship," appealed Slappey.
"We are students who live on budgets and cannot afford special clothing that for decades has been unnecessary in the Senate Office Buildings," the Slappey letter continued. "Let us not forget the words of Henry David Thoreau that urge us to be careful of endeavors that require new clothes."
For most of the operators, the required "uniforms," (a black or dark blue suit or pantsuit, while shirt or blouse, ties for the men, black socks and shoes) are a far cry from what they usually mean.
"I'll have to mothball all the clothes I've bought for this job or wear them just to church," complained Stephen Cain, who says that he, along with others, have always followed the heretofore accepted elevator operator dress code of shirt, tie, jacket and trousers. He was dressed yesterday in navy blazer, gray flannel trousers and blue tie.
An upwardly mobile young man who believes that such uniforms stifle individuality. Cain said, "I hope to be active in a senator's office on legislature, and wearing a uniform isn't going to help much."
Others complain strenuously of the cost impose on the operators since the official directive, issued by the Capitol Architect's office, indicates that "since these are to be considered normal articles of dress clothing, the elevator operators should furnish th outfits at their own expense."
"This job is so temporary it (the unform) is silly," said Frances Keith, who is also a student at Georgetown University. Keith, who was wearing a Madras plaid jacket, polo shirt and skirt, said she was unaware of an official dress code and knew of no complaints about the clothes she and others wore. "The (building) superintendent should have the right to say you are not properly dressed and send you are not properly dressed and send you home," she said. But as for decreeing a uniform, she indicated she would vote "Nay" if given the chance.
One operator in the Cannon Office Building who asked not to be identified objected to the uniforms "because it will make us look like pages. A colleague, also wanting anonymity, called it "demeaning" adding, "I feel I should not be punished for other people's violation of the dress code."
He was particularly offended, he said, because "I think I dress well." (He was wearing a navy blazer, checked shirt and knit tie.) "It's my pride that's offended," he added. "I don't like people to question my taste in clothing. I'd change my job before wearing a uniform," he concluded.
Only Guy Napper, Washington Technical Institute student and an admitted dress code "offender" thinks the uniform is just what he needs to spruce up his attire. He was wearing denim trousers yesterday that he said wouldn't pass inspection under the current dress rules. "After two years on the job," he said, "they get a little lax about you."
Napper said when he first heard about the proposed uniform he decided to quit, but now he's changed his mind.
"I can't object to the specifications as long as I can get a suit I'll look good in," said Napper, who doesn't own a suit. It really hadn't occurred to him to buy one, he said, but pushed by the directive he now thinks he may buy several.
"I see a lot of influential people and I know they look at me," he said. "I know I'd look better in a suit.