Monday, April 28, 2014

Talking Through My Hat

A find, somewhere on the internet:

I have a hat, a wonderful large, black wool-felt beret, which I dearly love. It's really become a part of me, perhaps too much so. If you know me, you've surely seen my beret. But you've probably seen the beret around Sutton even if you don't know me. I like to think my hat loves me too, and would hate, as much as I would, to become separated from me.
I guess technically it's not an immanent part of me. It was not there at my creation, nor have I always had it. But it has become more than head gear. Good or bad, it has become a part of my persona.
My beret looks a bit Basque or Italian, but it's not. I bought it in Argentina, in a small shop northeast of Buenos Aires in a town called San Antonio de Areco. I bought it mostly because the shopkeeper looked so good in his. It's a gaucho cap, really, and fearing I would do it injustice so far from its home I took several photos of the shopkeeper in his, just to remember how to wear it. It was round and flat in his shop display, but he told me it would mold itself to my unique pate. “Just orient it on your head the same way every time; use the label inside as a marker.”
When I came home from South America in Novem-ber 2006 I wore my beret through the winter. In August I took it with me to Ireland, Finland and the Baltic States, Belarus and Ukraine, and to Moldova, Romania and Hungary. Of course it stayed home last year when I departed for Asia but my reunion with it eight months later was like rejoining an old friend, and I took it to England and Wales to celebrate.
It was only when I lost it that I realized its importance to me. We were in Montreal for a belated birthday celebration and were set to take in the cheap Tuesday matinees on rue Ste-Catherine. We decided to pass the 45 minutes before show time in the adjoining Simons store. After visiting several departments and making a minor purchase we headed for the exit. Only then did I notice that my hat was missing.
I'm a bald-headed guy and have been since my 20s. I need a hat almost always. In winter it stanches the heat loss from my uninsulated dome; in summer it keeps my unprotected scalp from burning. I never leave home without a hat. So questions like “Did you leave it in the car at Place des Arts?” were of course ridiculous; the winter weather on St. Catherine would surely have driven me back to the car.
But what was most alarming was what I least expected: the feeling that I was missing some part of my persona, some bit of who I am. It was as though, without my hat, I would need to make peace with the new person I would become or, God forbid, revert to. I had often said that I should have bought a second one, a spare against the day that the first should wear out. Was it merely that it is nigh impossible to replace? Or had my hat achieved some genuine immanence for me?
Things do creep into your soul, like the feel of greeting friends on rue Principale. They come to seem as though they have always been part of you, and that you could never live without them. But a hat!?
After retracing our route several times (searching not only the store but the heads of those around me), visiting ‘lost and found,' and despairingly contemplating life without my beret, my girlfriend Lynda had a stroke of genius. Where might a hat go before it could be declared “lost”? The woman at customer service had admonished us to wait a day or so before calling back; it took time for things to get to ‘lost and found,' mostly because they must first be determined to not be part of Simons' inventory.
It was only a small step in logic from there, but one that had eluded me entirely. Lynda wandered off, heading away from anywhere we had been. I started to protest but was cut off by her whisper, “There it is!” And there it was, indeed, in the men's hat department a good distance from where I'd made my purchase. Someone had laid it over some random rack, awaiting assessment by some hat-department employee. It looked somewhat old and worn next to all the new hats, a bit like me, I guess. I checked the label inside, confirmed its provenance, and buttoned it securely into the pocket of my coat.
We got to the movie late but enjoyed it greatly. I usually despise missing the beginning of a film, but this time it was fine. A contented feeling of completeness had returned to me. Later, waiting to be seated at a restaurant, I hugged Lynda and told her she was wonderful. “Nah,” she said, a smirk creeping in. “That's just your hat talking.”

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