Lanyard Nation


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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0 responses to “Lanyard Nation”

  1. Nicely done. Full points.

    I used to work for a company that did national security work, and we had a badges-always-showing rule too. The badges also served as keycards for a lot of doors, so it was inconvenient to just clip the badge to your pocket. Thus lanyards.

    Actually, we had a choice for our badges. You could use either a company-branded lanyard that went around your neck, or a clip-on company-branded badge reel with spring-loaded retractable cord.

    What you weren’t allowed to do, however, according to a memo in everybody’s mailbox one day, is attach your badge reel to your lanyard. If you did, you might extend the reel to swipe your badge through an electronic lock and then let go of the badge while the reel was still fully extended. The spring loaded reel would then suddenly and rapidly retract and—since the reel clip was attached to your free-hanging lanyard—rebound upward into your face where the spring-steel reel clip could hit you in the eye and scratch your cornea.

    This was not a purely theoretical concern, if you know what I mean.

    Needless to say, I always had my badge reel attached to my badge lanyard. I was younger, and I lived life on the edge.

  2. I always wondered why it was considered less likely that people that got the badges permitting them to bypass the metal detectors, were less likely to bring in a gun and shoot up a courtroom than anyone else in society. Obviously there have been notorious examples in other courthouses where that has happened. Seems like maybe we have wasted a whole bunch of money since 9/11.

  3. I think you’re reading way too much into lanyards. I wear mine on a lanyard so I don’t lose it and have it on me. It’s much more simple for my ADD mind.

  4. While living on the Strand in Galveston, I realized the necessity of having a lanyard on while traversing Mardi Gras. For some reason, if you had on a lanyard, security just let you right through to any party. Even though the plastic badge just had crap my down-the-hall neighbor made up out of thin air. I’m sure there’s some kind of sociology study there.

  5. A variation of this is the clipboard. When I was in the Army, it was well-known that the best way to get out of actually doing anything was to hold a clipboard in your hands and periodically make notes while others worked.

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