The Secret Swagger of Security Badges

I doubt there is any city, other than Washington, where wearing a security badge is a fashion statement. As ubiquitous as the uniform of a grey pin striped suit and polished oxfords for which DC is justifiably famous, you can’t take a step downtown without seeing the laminated ID badge, displayed as proudly as a Texas belt buckle.

I am on the ornery side when it comes to privacy (personal blog aside), so it surprises me to witness people so at ease with displaying their badges outside of their highly guarded workspace. On the Metro, Theresa Jones (employed by the FBI) lets it all hang out; Javier Gutierrez is equally blasé about who knows his name and where he works (EPA). Confident that the badge opens doors for them, these worker bees don’t think twice about broadcasting their identities when exiting their exclusive access areas. The badge is “all;” it serves as confirmation that they have passed muster, a part of some rarified circle.

As I ride alongside of them in one of Metro’s orange carpeted subway cars, their badges gently swaying as the car swooshes through the underground tunnels, I stare, transfixed, at their casually displayed IDs. I begin to wonder about the metaphorical security badges we each carry. What quality or experience do each of us invest in which provides us a (private) sense of security and confidence? Is it our family background? A diamond ring we wear? Our job title or bank account balance? Or, perhaps, our secret pride lies in flouting convention? When I think about it, I’m pretty certain that there is something we each feel secretly smug about. For example, a man who carries a condom in his wallet—even if it is never used—may be the talisman he needs to believe himself to be a rogue of sorts; it’s what he needs in order to carry himself with a certain swagger.

Taken from a slightly different perspective, what might others observe about us as the basis for our feeling secure or accepted? Is it the same thing that we would secretly admit to ourself about ourself? Perhaps your relatives say you take a secret pride in how “family values” oriented you are? (No matter that your definition excludes any other approach as valid.) Or, perhaps, your work colleagues would say that a lot of your confidence comes from an overinflated sense of your own educational pedigree. Is this what you secretly call upon when entering a room full of strangers, making a pitch for their business? Do you realize how much others can see about you? How does this make you feel? Vulnerable or blasé?

What is your personal security badge?

I’m not sure if this blog post makes any sense, but I hope I’m getting my point across. There’s nothing wrong with having a metaphorical security badge—we all do it. I just think we tend to forget that people see more than we realize. Self-knowledge is a useful quality because we can remind ourselves when we get too far off course. As a Re-booter still very much in the thick of struggling to launch a new life, it’s hard for me to identify that “secret thing” I feel smug about. Having your life upended can serve as an effective counterpoint to that sort of pride, I assure you! Right now, there ain’t that much I can look to to bolster that part of me, but I know I’ve got it. Maybe this is a useful lesson, feeling as though my secret swagger eludes me. What about you? 

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